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The drive for Universal Health Coverage: shifting healthcare priorities to non-communicable diseases and injuries?

Hosted by Global Health Initiative

Graham Wallas Room, Old Building


Professor Ole Frithjof Norheim

Professor Ole Frithjof Norheim

Physician and professor in medical ethics, University of Bergen


Professor Alex Voorhoeve

Professor Alex Voorhoeve

Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Should we complete the unfinished agenda on communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases or instead scale up essential interventions for non-communicable diseases and injuries in low- and lower-middle-income countries?

Countries are in different phases of demographic transition, with substantial shifts in the age composition of populations, leading to epidemiological transitions from mortality predominately associated with communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases (CMNN) toward mortality associated with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries. These changes are reflected in the Sustainable Development Goal targets and the drive for Universal Health Coverage.

A key policy choice on the short-term agenda in low- and lower-middle income countries is whether to complete the unfinished agenda of targeting CMNN or scaling up essential interventions for NCDs and injuries.

This presentation reports expected impact on life expectancy, deaths averted, and inequality in life expectancy from scaling up recommended cost-effective and equitable actions for promotion, prevention and treatment of CMNNs, NCDs and injuries in low and lower-middle-income countries. Implications for national and global priorities will also be discussed.


Professor Ole Frithjof Norheim is a physician and professor in medical ethics, Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, University of Bergen, and adjunct Professor at the Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Norheim’s wide-ranging research interests include the ethics of priority setting in health systems and how to achieve Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals relating to health. He firmly believes that priority setting for health should aim for the greatest number of healthy life years for all, fairly distributed.

He is currently heading the research projects Inclusive Evaluation of Public Health Interventions (2017-2020, funded by the Norwegian Research Council) and – with Stéphane Verguet – Disease Control Priorities – Ethiopia (2017-2020, funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). He is a Member of the Lancet NCDI Poverty Commission and the Lancet Global Health Commission on High Quality Health Systems. Norheim has chaired the World Health Organization’s Consultative Group on Equity and Universal Health Coverage (2012-2014), and the third Norwegian National Committee on Priority Setting in Health Care (2013-2014). He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers in journals such as Science, the Lancet, BMJ, Bulletin of WHO, Health Policy and Planning, and Journal of Medical Ethics.