Beginning on September 17th, heads of government, ministers, diplomats and representatives from civil society, global development and private sector organizations will gather in New York for the United Nations General Assembly and related meetings to discuss advancing global development, including progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. Those working in health will focus their attention on SDG 3, encompassing health issues such as infectious diseases, noncommunicable diseases, maternal health and Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
This year, one of the most highly anticipated events will be the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on UHC, scheduled for Monday, September 23rd, in which UN Member States will agree on a Political Declaration on “Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World.” This meeting will be crucial for mobilizing political support and setting a framework for countries to create their own roadmaps to achieving UHC. The UHC2030 Coalition has developed a set of key asks for consideration by the assembled delegates later this month, including ensuring political leadership beyond health; leaving no one behind; ensuring an appropriate regulatory and legislative policy framework; upholding quality of care; investing more and investing better; and “moving together,” with inclusive partnerships to reach ambitious UHC goals.
Virtually every country has already agreed to the aspiration of achieving UHC by 2030. Yet, how countries will get there has still been a matter of intense debate in recent months. To make real progress along the path to UHC, countries must not only make sustainable financial and political commitments, but they must also be open to working with non-governmental partners, including the private sector, which already playing an essential role in healthcare delivery around the world. More and more companies are taking steps to align their businesses to UHC. The UHC2030 Private Sector Constituency, for example, convenes private sector actors to foster dialogue and collaboration for UHC and provides a platform for interaction between the private sector and UHC2030’s partners and health systems networks. In a recent op-ed, Harald Nusser, Head of Novartis Social Business, and I discussed the importance of viewing the private sector as an ally, rather than an adversary, and designing multisectoral strategies that involve all relevant actors if countries are to achieve UHC by 2030.
Whether countries achieve UHC by 2030 will ultimately come down to political willpower, accountability and sustainable partnerships. Each country will chart its own course, deciding which health services to cover, who will be covered, how to pay for those services and how to ensure effective and efficient delivery. The debate at the UN HLM 2019 will be closely watched by the global health community. It represents the beginning of the real work of transforming the myriad policy prescriptions of the Political Declaration into priorities and programs at the national level that can truly make a difference in the lives of billions of people on our planet. We all have a role to play – and a stake in the outcomes.
Jeffrey L. Sturchio
CEO, Rabin Martin