In Advance of Stakeholder Hearing, UN Leaders Urge Support for UHC
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The WHO Director-General reiterated health as a fundamental human right, not a privilege.

The UNGA President is organizing an interactive multi-stakeholder hearing to enable stakeholders to share their perspectives on urgent actions and investments for UHC and offer an opportunity to identify how the UHC political declaration can agree on a concrete milestone to accelerate progress towards achieving UHC by 2030.

7 April 2019: Leaders underscored the role of primary health care in efforts to achieve universal health coverage (UHC), as they marked World Health Day. The UN General Assembly released information about an interactive multi-stakeholder hearing on UHC that will convene in April, in advance of the UN high-level meeting on UHC in September 2019.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines UHC as all individuals and communities accessing the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. These services encompass prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. The WHO explains that, despite this aim, people may have to sell assets, borrow money or use their life savings to access health care if they are not protected from the financial consequences of paying for health services out of their own pockets. Consequently, the WHO is calling on all countries to invest in primary health care as a critical step in progress towards UHC. Achieving UHC is expected to have an important impact on SDG 3 (good health and well-being) as well as on SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals).

Approximately 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year as a result of out-of-pocket spending on health.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated health as a fundamental human right, not a privilege, in an event to launch the Day. He observed that half the world’s population lacks access to essential health services with approximately 100 million people being pushed into extreme poverty each year as a result of out-of-pocket spending on health. Ghebreysesus emphasized all people deserve access to health services “when and where they need them, without financial hardship” and emphasized primary health care as “the bedrock of UHC.”

In a statement for the Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said UHC aims to ensure “equitable access to health services for all” without people experiencing financial hardship as a result of obtaining essential health services. He stressed UHC as central to “building health societies and economies and to achieving the SDGs.” Guterres highlighted the 2018 Declaration of Astana on Primary Health Care, and called for countries to implement its commitments. The UN Secretary-General concluded by underscoring the importance of political commitments in making health a human right and delivering health for all.

As part of the preparations leading to the high-level meeting on UHC, which will convene in New York, US, on 23 September 2019, Member States requested the UNGA President to convene an interactive multi-stakeholder hearing to ensure the active, substantive and inclusive engagement of stakeholders in the process. The hearing will convene on 29 April with the aim of enabling stakeholders to share their perspectives on urgent actions and investments for UHC. It will also offer an opportunity to identify how the UHC political declaration can add value to the UHC movement and result in agreement on a concrete milestone to accelerate progress towards achieving UHC by 2030.

The hearing will feature an opening segment, three interactive panel discussions and a closing segment. The three panel topics are: UHC as a driver for inclusive development and prosperity; leave no one behind-UHC as a commitment to equity; and multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder actions and investments for UHC. The hearing will result in a summary prepared by the UNGA President. [UN News Story] [UN Secretary-General’s Statement] [UNGA President’s Letter on UHC Hearing] [WHO webpage for World Health Day]


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