UNGA president urges collaborative efforts to revolutionize global health systems

Dennis Francis (3rd R, First Row), president of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), speaks at the opening of the High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept. 21, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Rui)

UNITED NATIONS,  Dennis Francis, president of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), on Thursday called on the international community to work together to radically transform the health systems.

"Our world is in a very different place today than it was in 2019," Francis said. "As the COVID pandemic reminded us all too painfully, healthy people are the foundation of healthy societies and economies."

Francis noted that this meeting is aimed at scaling up "our actions and investments in universal health coverage" to ensure that everyone receives quality health services, when and where needed, "without incurring financial hardship."

He warned that the growing burden of out-of-pocket expenses has become a significant barrier to healthcare access across the globe. "Every year, millions of people are impoverished by the costs of healthcare. High costs keep essential health services out of reach. There is no reason for this to be the norm."

The PGA underscored that "by expanding primary healthcare interventions, national healthcare systems can better cover the costs of essential health care services."

"This could potentially save 60 million lives by 2030," he said.

"Strengthened in this way, health systems could better help communities respond to and recover from shocks -- all while preventing backsliding on health outcomes," Francis stressed.

"I call on governments to increase -- and improve the quality of -- their healthcare investments, prioritizing equitable access and financial protection," he said. "All stakeholders must be involved, from government ministries and civil society to patient groups, providers and citizens."

The PGA emphasized the importance of prioritizing service to the most vulnerable populations, which includes individuals with disabilities, indigenous communities, mothers, newborns, and children, with a special focus.

He said that while keeping a gender perspective in mind, countries also need "a well-equipped healthcare workforce with fair compensation and decent working conditions."

Francis stressed that with political leadership from the top down, "we can ensure that everyone has access to the health services they need."

The world body says that the three-day high-level meeting presents an opportunity for countries and stakeholders to renew efforts and accelerate progress toward achieving health for all. "This will serve as the foundation for executing policies and ensuring responsibility for strengthening health systems for the future, building on the 2019 Political Declaration."

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