Community-based initiatives have enormous potential to facilitate the attainment of universal health coverage (UHC) and health system development. Yet key gaps exist and threaten its sustainability in many low-income and middle-income countries. This study is first of its kind (following the launch of the Sustainable Developments Goal [SDG]) and aimed to holistically explore the challenges to achieving UHC through the community-based health planning and service (CHPS) initiative in Ghana.


A qualitative study design was adopted to explore the phenomenon. Face-to-face indepth interviews were conducted from April 2017 until February 2018 through purposive and snowball sampling techniques. Data were analysed using inductive and deductive thematic analysis approach.


Data were gathered at the national level, in addition to the regional, district and subdistrict/local levels of four regions of Ghana. Sampled regions were Central Region, Greater Accra Region, Upper East Region and Volta Region.


In total, 67 participants were interviewed: national level (5), regional levels (11), district levels (9) and local levels (42). Interviewees were mainly stakeholders—people whose actions or inactions actively or passively influence the decision-making, management and implementation of CHPS, including policy makers, managers of CHPS compound and health centres, politicians, academics, health professionals, technocrats, and community health management committee members.


Based on our findings, inadequate understanding of CHPS concept, major contextual changes with stalled policy change to meet growing health demands, and changes in political landscape and leadership with changed priorities threaten CHPS sustainability.


UHC is a political choice which can only be achieved through sustainable and coherent efforts. Along countries’ pathways to reach UHC, coordinated involvement of all stakeholders, from community members to international partners, is essential. To achieve UHC within the time frame of SDGs, Ghana has no choice but to improve its national health governance to strengthen the capacity of existing CHPS.


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