Last Mile Patients Must be Prioritised in Order to Achieve Universal Health Coverage: Smile Train Statement on UHC Day

11 December 2019 | Smile Train

Keep the Promise for Patients with Clefts


For at least half of the world’s population, access to essential healthcare services remains beyond reach. Each year, 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty seeking healthcare, and more than 800 million people spend at least 10% of their household budgets to pay for healthcare. This grave inequity makes the fundamental right to healthcare an unachievable luxury for too many people and takes a devastating economic toll upon individuals, families, communities, and nations. As of 2019, all UN Member States have agreed to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring that all individuals and communities have access to the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship

Keep the Promise for Children

Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft organisation, believes that health care is a universal right, and that patients with clefts represent an especially vulnerable population that must be prioritised within national plans to realise UHC. Each year, more than 200,000 babies are born with cleft lip and/or palate. This condition affects their ability to eat, speak, breathe, and, ultimately, thrive. In developing countries, where billions lack access to safe, affordable surgical and anaesthesia care, children with clefts often live in isolation. They often do not attend school due to health problems or stigma and discrimination. As adults, they can struggle to find employment and gain acceptance within their community.

The toll of this condition is not only witnessed in the incalculable loss of human potential, but also in the steep economic impact. An independent study measuring the economic impact of cleft repair surgery demonstrated that as much as £37,000 was put back into the local economy as a result of increased well-being and enhanced productivity. Leaders cannot afford to not invest in ensuring that babies born with clefts receive the comprehensive cleft care that they need to thrive. Cleft surgery is affordable, and comprehensive cleft care transforms not only individuals but communities and nations.

Today, on UHC Day, Smile Train joins the global health community to call upon national and international leaders and policymakers to "Keep the Promise” made at the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC in September of 2019 and increase healthcare spending overall and for the most vulnerable, including children with clefts, in order to achieve and maintain UHC in all countries and truly ‘leave no one’ behind.

Keep the Promise for Patients with Clefts

Keep the Promise for Families

Keep the Promise for Surgeons

Keep the Promise for Them