World leaders on Thursday approved a new political declaration committing to redouble efforts toward universal health coverage by 2030, reported Xinhua.
The declaration, "Universal Health Coverage (UHC): expanding our ambition for health and well-being in a post-COVID world," 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.
Approved by world leaders attending the High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage, one of the major meetings of world leaders being held during the high-level week of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, the declaration aims to assess countries' capacity to guarantee universal access to healthcare, ensuring that everyone can receive the necessary medical care, regardless of time or location, without experiencing financial burdens.
It covers the full continuum of key services from health promotion to prevention, protection, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. Alarmingly, global progress toward UHC has been largely stagnating since 2015, before stalling in 2019.
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 healthcare, a stark reality of widening health inequities.
"Ultimately, universal health coverage is a choice, a political choice," said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "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 healthcare, which is the most inclusive, equitable, and efficient path to universal health coverage."
It is estimated that an additional 200 to 328 billion U.S. dollars of investment per year is needed to scale up a primary healthcare approach in low- and middle-income countries. This could help health systems deliver up to 90 percent of essential health services, save at least 60 million lives and increase average life expectancy by 3.7 years by 2030.
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 High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in 2027.
- Health coverage