PARTICIPANTS at the Second Global Symposium in Health Systems Research, in Beijing, China, have intensified pressure on the United Nations for a declaration on universal health coverage.
Minister of Health of the People’s Republic of China, Chen Zhu, said there is need for universal healthcare to become the consensus of most countries.
Zhu, who spoke at the official opening ceremony of the conference, emphasised institutional arrangement that should guide universal health coverage.
These are: “Provide basic healthcare system as public goods to the entire population; ensure basic healthcare, strengthen the primary healthcare, and make institutional arrangement; and comprehensively plan priorities highlighted step by step.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines universal health coverage as ‘securing access to adequate health care for all at an affordable price.’ The organisation sees this as the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer.
Leading voices for a UN declaration during a presentation at the symposium, President of the United States-based Rockefeller Foundation, Judith Rodin, stressed how transforming systems towards universal health coverage is a major necessity for countries across the world.
“As we work to promote greater access, affordability and equity across healthcare systems on the ground,” she said, “we are calling for a UN resolution in the General Assembly on universal health coverage. This would act as a stepping stone to embed universal health coverage, firmly within the post-Millennium Development Goals framework.”
She said: “As much as we need health systems solutions, we also need political solutions. For universal health coverage, we need a movement. That movement is gathering momentum.”
She called on relevant stakeholders to join the campaign to communicate the human imperative to expand health coverage and reduce health inequalities around the globe. This, she said, is as important as political and economic benefits.
She listed the world’s great challenges as: “How do we transform health systems to ensure universal health coverage for all who need it, without financial hardship? What advances and innovations will enable us to streamline our systems of care, to make them more accessible, more effective, and more equitable; and, ultimately, to make quality health care ubiquitous, no matter the city or country or continent?”
According to her: “Right now, 40 per cent of the world’s population– 2.8 billion people– has some form of risk-pooled health insurance. We have come a long way, and have a great deal of progress to be proud of. Yet each year, in this 21st century, more than 7 million children and newborns die from preventable causes. Nearly 300,000 women perish due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth. That’s 800 women today– almost half this conference.
“These tragic outcomes are not preordained. Rather, they are a function of dysfunctional and weak health systems unable to provide health coverage to those who need it most.
“Billions of people still finance their health care through out-of-pocket payments, leading many to forego healthcare or use school fees to cover medical costs– and those costs are pushing 25 million households into poverty each year.”
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