Universal Health Coverage: “the anchor” for the work of the WHO

Thanks Louise for the update from the World Health Assembly (WHA) opening session, and our clearly articulated positions on universal health coverage (UHC).

Reading Dr. Margaret Chan’s opening address at the WHA, I wanted to share some of the language she used, which reflects and shapes UHC as it receives increasing global attention.

She defines health as a driver of socioeconomic progress, highlights the role of the public sector and national ownership, and frames UHC as “the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer”.

Abolishing distinctions and cementing gains

I particularly like this part of her speech:

“Universal coverage is relevant to every person on this planet. It is a powerful equalizer that abolishes distinctions between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the marginalized, the young and the old, ethnic groups, and women and men.

Universal health coverage is the best way to cement the gains made during the previous decade. It is the ultimate expression of fairness. This is the anchor for the work of  the World Health Organization (WHO) as we move forward.”

Fairness and accessibility

As we learn from the lessons of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the importance of addressing inequalities, UHC returns our focus to the right of all to quality care without financial hardship.

It allows us to focus on value for money, making health systems more efficient and prompting innovations. It reinvigorates the Paris Principles of aid effectiveness, particularly country ownership.

Chan expresses concern at the trend towards quick and tangible results that can adversely affect health systems and disease programmes. She urges us not to quantify how much health can be bought with a given amount of money.

More for the WHO

Chan closes with an assertion of the importance of the WHO – “…a global health guardian, a protector and defender of health, including the right to health”  – and a promise to improve the WHO’s operational effectiveness and strategic positioning.

This is a major reform agenda that will also be discussed this week, and we look forward to hearing how that goes…

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