Mexico has introduced universal health coverage in less than ten years, according to a report in The Lancet medical journal.

It said the changes have now brought 50m previously uninsured people into a public medical insurance scheme, first established nine years ago.

Until 2004, adequate medical insurance was only available to Mexican citizens who could access social security schemes through their employment, through costly private health insurance.

The popular health insurance scheme, or "Seguro Popular", covers chronic and catastrophic illnesses, as well as preventative healthcare, such as vaccination and diabetes screening, and full cover has been achieved this year.

However, the report said there are still disparities between the quality of healthcare in different states, due to the way funding is distributed and problems in ensuring people in remote rural areas have access to healthcare.

In Ireland, the Government has promised to introduce a system of universal health insurance by 2016.

An accompanying editorial in The Lancet said that Mexico's health reforms are a "remarkable feat".

It said that Mexico has demonstrated how universal health insurance, "as well as being ethically the right thing to do, is the smart thing to do".