2 May 2019
Stakeholders Bring Inputs to UNGA Meeting on Universal Health Coverage
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
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The UNGA Interactive Multi-stakeholder Hearing will feed into the High-Level Meeting on UHC in September 2019.

Participants highlighted the links between health and wealth, and health and security, and the WHO said UHC is within reach.

29 April 2019: Over 600 representatives from public health organizations, civil society, foundations, academia and the private sectors discussed their perspectives on universal health coverage (UHC) and shared best practices, during the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) Interactive Multi-stakeholder Hearing on UHC. Discussions will feed into the UNGA’s High-level Meeting on UHC on 23 September 2019.

The hearing convened on 29 April 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Delivering opening remarks, UNGA President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces said SDG 3 (good health and well-being), while crucial to the delivery of the entire 2030 Agenda, is “one of the most challenging to achieve.” Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed the right to health in 1948, Espinosa said “seven decades on, it remains a distant dream for half the world’s people” who lack access to essential health services. Furthermore, health expenses push over 100 million people into extreme poverty every year and force them to make choices “no one should ever have to make,” such as the choice between buying food or medicine, or between paying for education or treatment.

The UNGA President reported that the macro-level impact of poor health services is estimated at trillions of dollars every year in lost productivity, long-term impairment and short-term expenditure. Noting, for example, that malaria costs African countries USD 12 billion a year, she remarked that “health really is wealth.”

This message was echoed by Adaora Okoli, Health for All storyteller and Ebola survivor, who emphasized that “a healthy nation is a rich nation.” She added that health risks also pose security risks.

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the UN Secretary-General, expressed hope that the high-level meeting in September will advance more coherent accountability mechanisms in health care. She also called for the meeting to make the case for increased investment in health care.

Joining the event via teleconference from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), emphasized that “global health security affects us all.” He explained that when countries have “robust, end-to-end primary health systems,” outbreaks are prevented, crises are infrequent, and families and communities are empowered “in ways that go beyond the specifics of health care.”

Ghebreyesus recalled that in October 2018 many UN Member States endorsed the Astana Declaration on Primary Health Care, by which they committed to strengthening primary health care. He added that UHC is “within the grasp of the international community.”

Alaa Murabit, SDGs Global Advocate, praised Canada’s UHC. She called for refusing to support businesses and individuals who do not pay their employees, and for creating a society that provides clean workplaces and equal opportunities. She said the global community should provide the necessary resources to promote “sustainable security” through UHC.

In addition to the opening segment, the hearing included three panel discussions on: UHC as a driver of inclusive development and prosperity; UHC as a commitment to equity and leaving no one behind; and multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder action and investments for UHC.

SDG target 3.8 calls to “achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”

In late May 2019, the 72nd World Health Assembly will take up several topics related to UHC and the 2030 Agenda. [Event Programme] [Meeting Summary]

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