Health risks are among the major life risks tackled by social protection. In developing countries like Pakistan, sickness is one of the most frequent causes of poverty. In turn, poverty is one of the greatest health risks. Social health protection is designed to alleviate the burden caused by ill health and reduce the indirect costs of disease and disability, such as lost years of income due to short and long-term disability, care of family members, lower productivity, the impaired education and social development of children. Better health enables persons to work and generate income, and as such has the potential to break the cycle of ill health and poverty.

An effective social health protection system provides universal access to needed health care that is affordable, available, of adequate quality and offers financial protection in times of illness, injury and maternity. Key issues relate to gaps in coverage and financial protection. In Pakistan, out-of-pocket expenditure constitutes a large share of national health expenditure. Frequently, this forces people to choose between paying for care and paying for other family and business necessities, especially when private expenditure reaches catastrophic levels of more than 40 per cent of household income net of subsistence.

The health system in Pakistan is characterized by mixed public and private financing and delivery of care. Greater quality and access calls for further thinking on the role of the private sector into health systems and a broader systems perspective on how public and private sectors can work together to address the challenges of affordability, quality, and availability of care. A number of arrangements, as a result of interfacing the roles, responsibilities and prerogatives of the public and private sectors in healthcare system, can be worked upon.

The Government of Punjab’s strategy towards universal access to health care addresses the gaps in coverage and financial barriers to access through the development of efficient and effective social health protection systems. This aims to ensure that persons in need will not face hardship and an increased risk of poverty due to the financial consequences of accessing essential health care.