Joint Letter To UN Member States: Universal Health Coverage and the Post-2015 Agenda

JOINT LETTER TO UN MEMBER STATES: Universal Health Coverage and the Post-2015 Agenda

Your Excellency,

Health is a universal human right. It is both a driver and an indicator of sustainable development. Accordingly, we urge the Member States of the United Nations, as they deliberate on the post-2015 framework, to adopt an agenda which will promote accelerated, equitable progress towards universal health coverage (UHC) in all countries.

This progress is urgently needed. Today, more than one billion people cannot access the healthcare they need, while 150 million people experience financial catastrophe every year from out-of-pocket health costs. This burden disproportionately affects women, children and the most vulnerable. It exacerbates poverty and inequality. Lack of access to affordable, quality care is the critical shortcoming for millions of people in avoiding maternal and child mortality as well as death and disability from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and other conditions. Shortfalls in critical resources, including health workers and essential medicines, contribute to this access gap.

There is an emerging global consensus around universal health coverage (UHC) as the health sector’s most important contribution to health and wellbeing. UHC is the goal that all people receive the healthcare services they need, without suffering financial hardship. UHC policies aim to deliver the essential primary care services that can address the majority of preventable death. The World Health Organization, World Bank, a large number of countries as well as NGOs and the academic community are promoting UHC. United Nations Member States endorsed UHC in a 2012 resolution, co-sponsored by more than 90 countries.

UHC reforms strengthen health systems, enabling them to deliver services more equitably, efficiently and sustainably. They empower country leaders with greater ownership over their health sectors, while focusing attention on governments’ responsibility to fulfill progressively the right to health. UHC progress is measurable, allowing the global community to ensure that all countries pursue effective and equitable pathways towards UHC.

We commend the UN Secretary General’s key contribution in his recent report, “A life of dignity for all: accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015.” Its first recommendation for action is to “address universal health coverage, access and affordability.” Without forgetting the unfinished business of the health MDGs, the report boldly envisions the end of preventable maternal and child deaths, the eradication of malaria, and a future free of AIDS and tuberculosis. It recognizes the evolving burden of disease in developing countries, including new priorities around NCDs.

In the post-2015 framework, UHC is not just a critical enabler of other health priorities but must be included as a target unto itself. Omitting this cross-cutting target would undermine progress towards equitable access to comprehensive healthcare services, instead reinforcing fragmented health systems. We urge UN Member States to follow the Secretary General’s recommendation: structure the post-2015 health agenda to promote UHC, focusing on access and affordability, in the context of ambitious targets for improving health outcomes for women, children, and those affected by priority communicable and non-communicable diseases. The result will be better health and greater prosperity for all people.

Signatory civil society organizations:

Abt Associates
American College of Nurse-Midwives
COSADER (NGO Action Group for Food Security and Rural Development)
Ghana Universal Access to Healthcare Campaign Coalition
International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations
International Youth Council-Nigeria, Anambra State Sub-Chapter
Leonard Cheshire Disability
Management Sciences for Health
Médecins du Monde/Doctors of the World-International Network
One Million Community Health Workers Campaign
Oxfam India
Population Services International
Save the Children