UN Secretary-General’s remarks at the Universal Health Coverage Forum 2017

“Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank our co-organizers and commend the government of Japan for its leadership and vision in hosting this meeting.

Thank you also to Prime Minister Abe for his exciting announcement of US$2.9 billion for universal health coverage programmes.

Prime Minister Abe, your commitment to ensuring health for all – both here in Japan and around the world – is truly inspiring. The announced programme highlights the importance of integrated action to deliver on the sustainable development agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our topic today – health – and our venue – Tokyo – are perfectly matched.

Japan was one of the first countries to demonstrate the power of universal health coverage, achieving it in 1961 and unlocking economic growth for the decades that followed.

Next September, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Alma Alta Declaration, which famously set out a goal of achieving health for all.

Just two days ago, the world marked Universal Health Coverage Day.

Universal health coverage means just that: care and services for everyone.

Equitable access.

Quality care.

Affordable services.

Our goal must be to protect and promote physical and mental well-being for all.

Health is both an outcome and a driver of progress.

It is at the centre of our vision of a more sustainable, inclusive and prosperous future.

And it is central to the peace and security agenda.

When we invest in health – particularly of women and adolescents – we build more inclusive and resilient societies.

Thanks to targeted investments in recent decades, we have made historic progress on a variety of health challenges.

More women have access to modern contraception.

Vaccination levels are up.

More people living with HIV have access to anti-retrovirals.

More people at risk of malaria are sleeping under an insecticide-treated nets.

And an end to diseases such as polio is within sight.

However, gross inequities continue to leave the most vulnerable behind. For too many, health is inaccessible, unaffordable or altogether unavailable.

Out-of-pocket spending on health causes an estimated 100 million people to fall below the poverty line every year.

In an increasingly interconnected world, an evolving global health landscape gives rise to new threats, such as antimicrobial resistance, the impacts of climate change and the spread of non-communicable diseases.

All of this will require more integrated health systems capable of responding effectively and equitably to the unique needs of their communities. This means stronger surveillance systems, greater social protection mechanisms and more efficient delivery systems. With a projected shortfall of some 14 million medical professionals in 2030, increased investments in a more robust workforce will also be important.

In a globalized world, we must also build systems that can detect and respond to health crises.

We must start by dissolving the silos that have governed our efforts.

Our experience with tuberculosis underscores the challenge.

In 2016, roughly 4.1 million new cases of tuberculosis were not officially reported. Moreover, only one-in-five cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis began treatment, while most who are eligible for preventive treatment are not receiving it.

Universal Health Coverage provides the umbrella necessary to help close such gaps. Through stronger, resilient health systems that are people-centred and human-rights based, the quality of services and access to those services will be improved across the board.

Bold and creative partnerships across sectors will also be crucial in addressing the social and economic determinants of health.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Health is a right for all.

In a new development era, we must have more streamlined and sustainable financing for health that leverages linkages across sectors.

We know that every $1 spent on health yields up to $20 in full-income growth within a generation.

Political commitment will be critical to unlocking these investments.

There is of course no “one size fits all” solution, and each country must walk its own path toward universal health coverage. The United Nations stands ready to support the development and implementation of national plans that benefit all.  We look forward to the General Assembly High-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage in 2019.

And let us remember: just as peace is not simply the absence of conflict, so is health not just the lack of illness.  Our goal is not only a band-aid or a single dose of medicine, important as those are.  Our goal must be overall well-being, physically and mentally for everyone in all countries.

Let us move ahead with ambitious action to ensure health systems that deliver for everyone, everywhere.

Thank you.