UNDP Prioritizes Governance and Strengthening Health Systems for UHC
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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UNDP is supporting countries to achieve their commitments to universal health coverage through policies and programs to promote equity and protect human rights.

UNDP is undertaking three areas of work to bring health services within reach of the world’s poorest people: reducing inequalities and exclusion; strengthening effective and inclusive governance; and building resilient and sustainable systems for health.

UN Member States adopted the first-ever global declaration on universal health coverage in September 2019, and UNDP is one of 12 global organizations cooperating with the WHO to help countries meet this commitment.

20 September 2019: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has announced initiatives to help countries achieve universal health coverage (UHC), through policies and programmes focused on equity and human rights. Efforts relate to: reducing inequalities and exclusion; strengthening effective and inclusive governance; and building resilient and sustainable systems for health.

On 24 September 2019, UN Member States adopted the first-ever global declaration on UHC, during a high-level meeting in New York, US. The political declaration seeks to enable an additional one billion people to access health services by 2023. UNDP is one of 12 global organizations cooperating with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help countries meet this commitment.

In a 16-page issue brief, UNDP points to evidence that the insufficient pace of progress towards UHC is imposing significant costs on lower- and middle-income countries, and pushing almost 100 million people into extreme poverty every year due to out-of-pocket health costs. On inequalities and exclusion, UNDP’s work focuses on eliminating sexual and gender-based violence, promoting gender equality in national HIV and other health programmes, and improving access to HIV and health services for women, girls and excluded groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) populations.

On governance, UNDP is working with judges, parliamentarians and law enforcement personnel to increase sensitivity to HIV and health issues, and to implement the recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. UNDP is also supporting governments to control marketing of tobacco, alcohol and snack foods high in sugar, salt and trans fats, including through imposing taxes on sales of such items. The Programme cites calculations that the increased taxation of tobacco, alcohol and sugary beverages could avert 50 million deaths and raise USD20.5 trillion in tax revenue over 20 years. UNDP is also working on partnerships to make “micro health insurance” available to some of the poorest populations, so that they will have access to health services when they need it.

On health systems, UNDP is building capacity within countries for: financial and risk management, procurement of health commodities, monitoring and evaluation, introduction of digital systems, and policy management. This includes working in fragile states to integrate health into conflict and disaster recovery efforts.

The issue brief provides several examples of large-scale, systemic responses to UHC challenges, including UNDP’s “solar for health” initiative to ensure stable electricity supply to hospitals, and the establishment of a multi-stakeholder alliance to promote anti-corruption, transparency and accountability measures in health systems.

UHC is part of SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing); SDG target 3.8 expresses commitment to UHC through financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services, and access to essential medicines and vaccines. [Publication: Issue Brief: Universal Health Care for Sustainable Development]


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