Action for Global Health reflects on the Lancet Series on universal health coverage launch event
Yesterday in New York City The Lancet launched its special issue on universal health coverage (UHC) in the presence of dignitaries including WHO Director General Margaret Chan, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs and representatives of the health ministries of Ethiopia and Indonesia.
The timing of the special issue is right on target as this session of the UN General Assembly will feature a resolution on UHC, including an ask for UHC to the overarching goal for health in the post-MDGs framework. The panel of high-level speakers at the Lancet launch insisted on the importance for countries to move towards UHC to ensure progress in economic and sustainable development.
Margaret Chan reaffirmed her strong belief in UHC and said again that UHC is the single-most powerful concept for public health. Jeffrey Sachs focused on the role of UHC to achieve the Right to Health and Alma Ata declaration but reminded people in the room that poor countries are not able to implement UHC alone. The role of ODA is a key element of success. Both Indonesia and Ethiopia explained how they are implementing UHC and obstacles they are facing in terms of reform and ensuring access for the poorest.
There was a clear focus on the importance of the public health system and public funding for health. “Health services can’t be commercial if we want the poorest to have access to health. Public service needs d to take the leadership” concluded the Minister of Health of Ethiopia. When discussion was opened to comments from the floor, the head of the global health department at USAID reaffirmed USAID’s commitment on this issue. He shared that USAID has just created a health system strengthening unit that will support countries to shape their health sector.
It will not be smooth-sailing for UHC to feature prominently in the post-MDG framework. Some commentators in the room expressed their concern that UHC is a good concept but might not be strong enough to protect the most vulnerable and marginalized people. This is a good reminder for us that we as civil society have an important role to play in defining UHC and holding governments to account in their efforts to achieve UHC. We must ensure that whether within the post-MDG framework or otherwise UHC delivers for the poorest and most marginalized.
Rebecka Rosenquist is Policy and Advocacy Manager at Interact Worldwide, a member of Action for Global Health.
Annick Jeantet is Advocacy Officer at Global Health Advocates, France, a member Action for Global Health.
Cross-posted from the Action for Global Health blog.