With 10 years remaining until 2030, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on all countries to accelerate efforts to fulfil their commitments to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) and the other health-related targets in the Sustainable Development Goals.
2019 was a landmark year for UHC. At the United Nations General Assembly in September, world leaders agreed the political declaration on UHC, the first time all 193 UN Member States have unified around a common and comprehensive commitment to achieving this goal. In October, at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Belgrade, Serbia, legislators from 140 countries adopted a comprehensive resolution on UHC, pledging to leverage the power of parliaments to translate political commitment into laws, policies, programmes, and results.
Reflecting on these achievements, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo of Japan and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, co-wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post in December outlining how Japan’s experience shows that UHC is a foundation for development.
“Countries like Japan have shown that universal coverage is not only possible, it pays long-term dividends for the prosperity and stability of nations. Investing in health at an early stage of a country’s economic development can create the fundamental infrastructure for sustainable and comprehensive economic growth and social development,” they wrote.
2020 will provide several further opportunities for countries to advance towards UHC. At the UHC Forum, to be held in conjunction with the Prince Mahidol Award Conference in Bangkok from 28 January to 2 February, public health experts and policymakers from around the world will meet to identify challenges and solutions in strengthening health systems, including on sustainable financing.
In December, the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit will be an important moment for countries to chart a course towards achieving the SDG targets on addressing ending malnutrition in all its forms.
Throughout the year, WHO will celebrate the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, to highlight the essential role nurses and midwives play in achieving and maintaining UHC. A new report on the state of the world’s nursing will be launched on World Health Day (7 April), with further discussions expected at the World Health Assembly in May. WHO will also seek to use the G20 summit in Saudi Arabia and the G7 summit in the United States of America to ensure health remains a priority for leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Most importantly, WHO will continue to work with and in countries to make the vision of health for all a reality everywhere.