Monitoring universal health coverage within the Sustainable Development Goals: development and baseline data for an index of essential health services

Lancet Glob Health. 2018 Feb;6(2):e152-e168. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30472-2. Epub 2017 Dec 13.


Background: Achieving universal health coverage, including quality essential service coverage and financial protection for all, is target 3.8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). As a result, an index of essential health service coverage indicators was selected by the UN as SDG indicator 3.8.1. We have developed an index for measuring SDG 3.8.1, describe methods for compiling the index, and report baseline results for 2015.

Methods: 16 tracer indicators were selected for the index, which included four from within each of the categories of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health; infectious disease; non-communicable diseases; and service capacity and access. Indicator data for 183 countries were taken from UN agency estimates or databases, supplemented with submissions from national focal points during a WHO country consultation. The index was computed using geometric means, and a subset of tracer indicators were used to summarise inequalities.

Findings: On average, countries had primary data since 2010 for 72% of the final set of indicators. The median national value for the service coverage index was 65 out of 100 (range 22-86). The index was highly correlated with other summary measures of health, and after controlling for gross national income and mean years of adult education, was associated with 21 additional years of life expectancy over the observed range of country values. Across 52 countries with sufficient data, coverage was 1% to 66% lower among the poorest quintile as compared with the national population. Sensitivity analyses suggested ranks implied by the index are fairly stable across alternative calculation methods.

Interpretation: Service coverage within universal health coverage can be measured with an index of tracer indicators. Our universal health coverage service coverage index is simple to compute by use of available country data and can be refined to incorporate relevant indicators as they become available through SDG monitoring.

Funding: Ministry of Health, Japan, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Global Health
  • Goals*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Universal Health Insurance / statistics & numerical data*