The G7 meets on Thursday and Friday this week at Ise-Shima in Japan. Save the Children and many other organisations are challenging them to be Universal Health Coverage Superheroes. UHC – everyone having essential health care without being forced into poverty by the way they pay for it – sounds logical but this would be the first time that the G7 has supported the principle clearly.
G7 leaders have supported many health and development topics in the past, including HIV, malaria, polio, vaccines, and maternal and child health. But there is now growing recognition that these initiatives have limited and short-term impact if there is not an effective health system that everyone can use. Ebola showed what happens health services are chronically underfunded and understaffed.
We know that the G7 will mention UHC in their communiqué because the Japanese G7 hosts have ensured this. But what do they have to do to be UHC Superheroes? We will have a few questions when we see the communiqué:
- Do they support UHC for everyday health needs like maternal and child mortality or are they just frightened of infectious diseases that get on aeroplanes?
- Do they promise to help countries raise more tax for public spending and curb the illicit flow of money from poor countries to rich ones?
- Do they promise to stop distorting national health systems with their own favourite diseases and topics and put their aid to use in building UHC?
- Will they put funding into a new global UHC alliance to share knowledge and expertise and coordinate support to the weakest countries?
How the G7 approaches UHC will make all the difference. If their actions and voice this year strongly promote a vision of UHC that is progressive and that promises no one should be denied healthcare for lack of cash, and if they take the actions they can to support this, then they have the chance to be superheroes at this G7.