On Thursday, world leaders endorsed a fresh political statement pledging to step up efforts to achieve universal health care by 2030.
The statement, “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Expanding Our Ambition for Health and Well-Being in a Post-COVID World,” is hailed as an essential catalyst for the international community to take significant, audacious steps and mobilize the required political commitments and financial investments to achieve the UHC target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
The declaration, which was approved by world leaders present at the High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage—one of the significant summits of world leaders taking place during the high-level week of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly—aims to evaluate countries’ abilities to ensure universal access to healthcare, ensuring that everyone can receive the necessary medical care, regardless of time or location, without facing financial burdens.
It includes the complete spectrum of essential services, from health promotion to prevention, security, care, and palliative care. Alarmingly, since 2015, global progress toward UHC has mostly stagnated until coming to a complete stop in 2019.
More than half of the world’s population, or at least 4.5 billion people, did not have access to all of the necessary health services in 2021. Over 1.3 billion people were forced into poverty while seeking to get basic healthcare, a stark reality of growing health disparities, and two billion people endured financial difficulty.
According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), universal health care is ultimately a political decision. “The political declaration countries adopted today is a strong signal that they are making that choice, but the choice is not just made on paper. It is made in budget and policy decisions, but most importantly, it is made by investing in primary healthcare, which is the most inclusive, equitable, and effective path to universal health coverage.”
To scale up a primary healthcare approach in low- and middle-income countries, an extra 200 to 328 billion dollars in investment are thought to be required annually.
By 2030, this might enable health systems to provide up to 90% of necessary medical treatments, save at least 60 million lives, and extend the average lifespan by 3.7 years.