“Now is the time to capitalize on the growing momentum toward health for all.”

Last Monday, The Rockefeller Foundation hosted a meeting called “Delivering on Universal Health Coverage: Why the Time is Now,” on the sidelines of the 69th session of United Nations General Assembly.

At the event, co-convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), The World Bank Group, and the Permanent Missions of France, Japan, and Thailand to the United Nations, global leaders discussed the imperative for universal health coverage (UHC). The discussion marked the eve of the UN Climate Summit, as well as the start of the General Assembly debates on post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

Q&A session with questions from the audience.
Q&A session with questions from the audience.

Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin announced the Foundation—in partnership with the WHO, the World Bank Group, and other organizations—will be launching the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day on December 12, 2014, to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the unanimous UN resolution that endorsed UHC as a priority for sustainable development. A growing list of more than 76 organizations from 15 countries have already pledged support for UHC Day.

Speakers included Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Annick Girardin, the French Minister of State for Development and Francophony, who affirmed their respective countries’ commitments to strengthening health systems around the world, particularly in the face of the ongoing Ebola epidemic.

Mr. Phuangketkeow discusses how health for all is financed in Thailand.
Mr. Phuangketkeow discusses how health for all is financed in Thailand.

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, led a dynamic panel discussion with Sania Nishtar, President and Founder of Heartfile, Pakistan; Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi; and Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After the panel, Ties Boerma, director of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO, addressed the importance of accountability and measurement for ensuring that commitments to UHC translate to progress on the ground. He highlighted the 13-country case studies published in a new PLoS Medicine series.

Dr. Richard Horton
Dr. Richard Horton: “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end preventable deaths.”

Finally, Tim Evans, senior director of the Health Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank Group, pointed to the ineffective global Ebola response, and underscored that the push for strong health systems is both a tremendous opportunity and a challenge.

The resounding message from the evening was clear: now is the time to capitalize on the growing momentum toward health for all. Ensuring that all populations can access quality health services without financial hardship is a concrete way to prepare for future health or climate-related shocks that always hit the poorest the hardest. Strong health systems must be at the heart of the sustainable development agenda.

Read more:
Universal Health Coverage Day 12.12.2014
Fact Sheet on Universal Health Coverage
PLOS Medicine Collection on “Monitoring Universal Health Coverage”
The Lancet: “Universal Health Coverage and the Post-2015 Agenda” (19 September 2014)

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