Heads of state, political leaders, policy-makers, and universal health coverage champions from around the world will discuss how countries can move towards achieving UHC. The outcome of the upcoming HLM will be a political declaration that is meant to provide a framework for action on UHC. Universal health coverage means all people have access to the health care they need, when and where they need it, without facing financial hardship. This is also indispensable for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 3.8, which calls for financial protection and coverage of essential health services. Other goals from poverty reduction to gender equity, improved access to education and meaningful work will also benefit from the implementation of UHC.
UN Member States are currently negotiating the Political Declaration on UHC in New York. One important aspect of these negotiations is to reaffirm the responsibility of governments to urgently and significantly scale up their efforts to deliver UHC. Discussions have put a particular focus on access to essential health services, including skilled health workers and access to safe, effective and affordable medicines, technologies and vaccines, alongside mechanisms to protect patients from financial risks.
“We need to make sure that countries understand that delivering Universal Health Coverage is the end result of a comprehensive, investigative and transformative process that instigates governments to take a new fresh look at their health and health-financing systems. The success of delivering UHC relies on this very thorough foundational work that will enable governments to adapt their systems to the new realities of disease burden and to make them more efficient and effective”, comments Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired, President of the Union for International Cancer Control. “The good news is that we now have more examples of low and middle-income countries (LMIC) who have recently started to implement UHC. So, it is no longer a question of whether it can be done, but rather when it will be done. I call on all governments to deliver on their obligations to provide quality essential medical services that are affordable and accessible to all.”
Civil society organisations play a critical role for the implementation of UHC, from delivering practical patient support to advocating for the inclusion of essential cancer services. UHC cannot be achieved if cancer, as the second leading cause of mortality globally, is left out and the needs of existing and future cancer patients are not addressed.
Achieving UHC is particularly challenging for low- and middle-income countries. Recognising the urgency, a number of UICC members are already investing strong efforts to drive UHC and the inclusion of cancer services on the national level.
The Kenya Network of Cancer Organisations (KENCO) for example has worked in partnership with the Kenya NCD Alliance, the Kenyan Government and other stakeholders to contribute to national consultations. They held a roundtable on cancer and NCDs to raise their profile in the current UHC pilots and roll-out later this year.
Similarly, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) has been working with a coalition of 38 civil society organisations to advocate for changes to South Africa’s patent laws. The objective is to improve access to affordable quality medicines and to ensure that cancer patients can access the services they need under UHC.
Is your organisation working on UHC in your country? Let us know as, over the coming months, UICC will be sharing a number of resources on cancer and UHC and wish to spotlight the work being done by our members.
Main image: Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) UN Photo/Cia Pak 2016