21-Sep-2023 00:04:08
World leaders approved a new Political Declaration on “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): expanding our ambition for health and well-being in a post-COVID world”. UNIFEED
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1. Wide shot, exterior, United Nations Headquarters
2. Wide shot, conference room
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“I urge you to make the political choice for universal health coverage by making it the central policy priority for your government. Second, I urge you to make the financial choice for universal health coverage by increasing domestic investments in primary health care, health workers and financial protection, starting with the most vulnerable.”
4. Wide shot, conference room
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“I urge you to make the policy choice for universal health coverage by addressing the drivers of disease in the food people eat, the air they breathe, and the conditions in which they live and work.”
6. Wide shot, conference room
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Dennis Francis, President of the 78th session of the General Assembly:
“I call on Governments to increase – and improve the quality of – their health care investments, prioritising equitable access and financial protection. All stakeholders must be involved, from Government ministries and civil society to patient groups, providers and citizens.”
8. Wide shot, conference room
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Dennis Francis, President of the 78th session of the General Assembly:
“The political declaration just approved–seeks to correct course and to identify a path forward for achieving the health and well-being of people, everywhere.”
10. Wide shot, conference room
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Amina J. Mohamed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations:
“The first which is governments must invest in systems that address communities’ needs through a primary health care approach. Locally accessible primary health care is the foundation of universal health coverage — and people’s first line of defense against illness and disease. From basic health and nutrition screenings and treatments; to vaccinations and immunization programmes; to medicines, diagnostics and devices; to pre and post-natal care for mothers and their children, scaling up primary care interventions is a proven lifesaver, and could save 60 million lives by 2030 in low and middle-income countries.”
12. Wide shot, conference room
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Amina J. Mohamed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations:
“They must increase the presence and voices of women — who already make up the majority of health workers — at every leadership table across health systems.”
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15. SOUNDBITE (English) Amina J. Mohamed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations:
“Developing countries cannot foot the bill alone. I call on countries to generously support the SDG Stimulus to increase financing for sustainable development to reach at least $500 billion per year, including investments in health systems.”
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17. SOUNDBITE (English) Axel van Trotsenburg, Senior Managing Director, World Bank:
“We need really to strengthen health systems and as the number one priority and we need strong systems, we need basically not only commitments, we also need investment and budget for this. I think we need to reverse the declining trend and make these investments not only for a couple of years, but I would say this is a generational challenge.”
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19. SOUNDBITE (English) Rebecca Akufo-Addo, First Lady of Ghana:
“We need to encourage governments to show more commitment to increasing public funding for health. We need to strengthen primary health care systems to support the access to available health care. We need more trained health workers, especially at the community level. The success of mass vaccination for childhood diseases in many countries, shows us that education and deployment on health personnel to even remote areas is the way to go.”
20. Wide shot, conference room
Today (21 Sep), world leaders approved a new Political Declaration on “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): expanding our ambition for health and well-being in a post-COVID world”.

The declaration is hailed as a vital catalyst for the international community to take big and bold actions and mobilize the necessary political commitments and financial investments to attain the UHC target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The UHC target measures the ability of countries to ensure that everyone receives the health care they need, when and where they need it, without facing financial hardship. It covers the full continuum of key services from health promotion to prevention, protection, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. Alarmingly, global progress towards UHC has been largely stagnating since 2015, before stalling in 2019.

The urgency of the declaration is evident in the staggering statistics. At least 4.5 billion people—more than half of the world’s population—were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021. Two billion people experienced financial hardship, with over 1.3 billion being pushed or further pushed into poverty just trying to access basic health care – a stark reality of widening health inequities.

“Ultimately, universal health coverage is a choice–a political choice,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “The political declaration countries approved today is a strong signal that they are making that choice. But the choice is not just made on paper. It’s made in budget decisions and policy decisions. Most of all, it’s made by investing in primary health care, which is the most inclusive, equitable, and efficient path to universal health coverage.”

Turning point for course-correction

In the Political Declaration, Heads of State and world leaders committed to take key national actions, make essential investments, strengthen international cooperation and global solidarity at the highest political level to accelerate progress towards UHC by 2030, using a primary health care (PHC) approach.

For health care to be truly universal, it requires a shift from health systems designed around diseases to systems designed for people. PHC, an approach to strengthening health systems centred on people’s needs, is one of the most effective areas for investment to accelerate progress towards UHC.

Countries that have taken a PHC approach have better ability to rapidly build stronger, more resilient health systems to reach the most vulnerable and achieve a higher return on health investments. Most importantly, they ensure that more people are covered with essential health services and are empowered to participate in making the decisions that affect their health and well-being.

It is estimated that an additional US$ 200–328 billion investment per year is needed to scale-up a PHC approach in low- and middle-income countries (e.g. up to approximately 3.3 per cent of national gross domestic product). This could help health systems deliver up to 90 per cent of essential health services, save at least 60 million lives and increase average life expectancy by 3.7 years by 2030.

WHO, through its network of more than 150 country offices and six regional offices, provides technical support to accelerate the radical reorientation of health systems through PHC focused approaches, and ensures robust normative guidance to track progress for accountability and impact.

WHO commends Member States for approving the second UN High-Level Meeting Political Declaration on UHC, which was developed through a broad consultative process. WHO is fully committed to working with Member States and partners to ramp up policy actions for UHC to expand service coverage, ensure financial protection and shape the financing architecture to invest more and better in health.

Once adopted by the UN General Assembly, the Political Declaration will be regularly monitored for implementation to identify gaps and solutions to accelerate progress, and discussed at the next dedicated UN High-Level Meeting in 2027.
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