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Remarks by Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Rajiv Shah World at Leaders for Universal Health Coverage


As delivered on Monday, September 18, 2017 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Good afternoon. Salut. I’d like to thank our co-hosts, particularly Prime Minister Abe of Japan, for bringing us together to discuss this topic that really underpins so many other developmental goals: universal health coverage.

For 104 years, the Rockefeller Foundation has committed itself to the mission of promoting the health and well-being of humanity throughout the world. And the idea that access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, has been at the core of that mission from the very beginning – going back to our very first grant, which was to the American Red Cross in 1913. And it has since inspired more than a century of investment in science, technology, and innovation to tackle disease and hunger.

More recently, thanks to the hard work of so many of you in this room and individuals and institutions that have been a part of this fight, we now can say that universal health coverage is clearly on the global agenda, and a specific identified target of the Sustainable Development Goals. Delivering access to care to the communities that need it the most is key to achieving the results embodied in all of the SDGs, and we are eager to work with you in partnership to advance this purpose.

As we continue the hard work of rolling up our sleeves and making UHC a reality, especially in advance of the upcoming Tokyo meeting, I hope all of us will continue to link our words to concrete actions and investments that make a difference, that are grounded in evidence, and together allow us to usher in more coverage for more communities. We look forward to working with you in the coming months to define concrete and realistic actions in advance of Tokyo that foundations and philanthropies can take to advance the cause of universal health coverage. And we’re proud to have been a big part of this fight.

Over the last decade, our commitment to advancing the cause of universal health coverage has involved establishing a Joint Learning Network, a Universal Health Coverage Day, supporting the initial WHO report that made the case for UHC, and being amongst the first to offer financial support for the UHC 2030 Alliance. I want to particularly thank Michael Myers from the Rockefeller Foundation for his leadership in bringing this together.

I’m new in my tenure at the Rockefeller Foundation, but I’m not new to global health, and we are firmly committed going forward to the cause of UHC. After all, for us, it’s about more than just three letters.

It’s empowering citizens around the right to health, so they can demand better and more affordable services. It’s about ensuring that families are not forced to choose between food and health, as Tedros noted passionately. It’s about Tony’s point that reaching the hard-to-reach is perhaps the most important, if we’re going to link this effort to delivering massive reductions in burden of disease and ending large scale under-five mortality and maternal mortality, as Kristalina so profoundly tasked us to do. And frankly, it’s also about reducing the burden of disease and costs of ever-rising non-communicable diseases which are becoming more prevalent in country after country.

So for all of those reasons – and, linking back to what Prime Minister Abe said at the beginning, in order to demonstrate that globalization can in fact be fair and inclusive and optimistic – we remain committed to UHC and look forward to working with you to make it a reality.

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