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Universal Health Coverage: A Commitment to Close the Gap

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WHO joins Rockefeller Foundation, Save the Children, and UNICEF to launch new report on universal health coverage

New York, 24 September 2013 (PAHO/WHO) – The World Health Organization (WHO), the Rockefeller Foundation, Save the Children, and UNICEF today launched a new joint report, “Universal Health Coverage: A Commitment to Close the Gap,” during a special event held in parallel to the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The report focuses on how and why inequity should be prioritized as countries advance toward universal health coverage. It identifies policy options that governments and donors should consider when implementing reforms in this area and estimates the effect this could have on health outcomes, providing implications for the post-2015 development agenda.

A panel led by Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin discussed the various paths to universal health coverage and efforts needed to accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to health, and to advance toward equitable access to quality health care without fear of impoverishment for low-income people.

“If we want to advance countries’ development, we must ensure that everyone has access to the health care they need,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. Ensuring healthy human capital, she added, is a priority for the post-2015 development agenda.

“The lives of millions of people depend on universal health coverage,” said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne, noting that the countries of the Americas are committed to advancing universal health coverage and social protection.

Etienne observed that Latin America is among the world’s most inequitable regions, in both economic and health terms. Child mortality in Bolivia, Haiti and Guyana, for example, is 10 times higher than in Chile or Cuba. Inequities also exist within countries, with vulnerable population groups lacking access to health. She said the first step toward universal health coverage is to define who lacks coverage, to be able to develop policies to ensure such access.

Rockefeller’s Judith Rodin said, “Universal health coverage is cost-effective and produces better health results. We want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access quality health services and without having financial problems when they do.”

Anne-Marie Descotes, executive director of the Department of Globalization, Development and Alliances of France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that universal coverage is “the cross-cutting answer to health challenges” facing the world. Elizabeth Stuart, director of policy and research for Save the Children, said, “We have to start by addressing inequities and reaching people who are at risk.”

Other participants in the panel discussion included Peerapol Sutiwisesak, undersecretary general for health security of Thailand’s Ministry of Health; Seth Berkley, executive director of the GAVI Alliance; Keizo Takemi, professor of political science and economics at Tokai University in Japan; Tim Evans, director of health, nutrition and population at the World Bank; Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Affairs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Rodrigo Moreno-Serra, of the Imperial College of London.