Sri Lanka’s publicly financed, high-performing healthcare system is widely acclaimed. In this article, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health and Indigenous Medical Services, describes the main challenges and opportunities in delivering healthcare for all in a middle income country, and imparts lessons for other Commonwealth nations striving to achieve universal health coverage.
“Each year, the national health sector serves seven million inpatients and over 35 million outpatients.”
Sri Lanka embarked on a universal health coverage (UHC) delivery process almost seven decades ago, through a comprehensive, free-at-thepoint-of-delivery healthcare system. It covered promotive, preventive, curative rehabilitation care, almost fully supported by the government. As a result, Sri Lanka stands out in the region as a middle income country with relatively high social and health indicators – life expectancy of 74.9 years, an average literacy rate of 93.3 per cent, maternal mortality of 33.7 per 1,000 live births (2015), a neonatal mortality rate of six per 1,000 live births and an infant mortality rate of 8.6 per 1,000 live births (2015) – all of which are showing a downward trend.
A British crown colony for over a century, in 1931, Sri Lanka inherited a legacy of strong government institutions and self-rule, based on universal adult franchise, as well as a system of governance committed to delivering free healthcare services to all its citizens…
Minister of Health and Indigenous Medical Services, Woman and Child Affairs and Social Security, Sri Lanka