2019 UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage

The first ever United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) will take place on the 23rd September 2019 in New York

Heads of state, political leaders, policy-makers, health advocates and universal health coverage champions from around the world will discuss how countries can move towards achieving 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. 

The 2019 High-Level Meeting presents the global cancer community with a unique opportunity to help secure political commitments that prioritise UHC in national agendas and to advocate for the inclusion of cancer services. 

What is a UN High-level Meeting? 

  • UN High-Level Meetings are organised by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and bring together Heads of States to address issues of global importance.
  • The General Assembly is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all 193 Member States have equal representation. 
  • The meeting in September will be the fifth HLM on a health-related topic.
  • Previous meetings have addressed other pressing global health issues such as Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), TB, HIV/AIDS, and Antimicrobial resistance.

What will the UN High-Level Meeting deliver?

The HLM will see UN Member States adopt a political declaration on UHC that will provide a framework for action on UHC.

The political declaration is an important tool to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 3.8, which calls for countries to deliver UHC. Other goals from poverty reduction to gender equity, improved access to education and meaningful work will also benefit from the implementation of UHC.

This UN HLM is a critical moment to mobilise highest level political support for health issues as we approach the 2023 midpoint of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

How is this relevant to the cancer community? 

UHC cannot be achieved if cancer as the second leading cause of mortality globally is left out and if the needs of existing and future cancer patients are not addressed in national UHC actions. 

Efforts to achieve UHC must therefore include key measures to address the growing global cancer burden. The 2017 cancer resolution and the calls for action on cervical cancer elimination and childhood cancer by WHO support that perspective and are important milestones in the journey toward UHC.

Implementing UHC  presents several opportunities to advance cancer control globally as well as a number of challenges. 

How is UICC involved?

UICC has followed the negociations of the political declaration and has provided input on cancer control aspects throughout the process. For example, during the interactive stakeholder hearing in April 2019 in New York, during the World Health Assembly in May 2019 in Geneva and during the political negotiations from June to August 2019 in New York. Throughout this process UICC requested feedback from its members to help shape our position and priorities.

One of the major challenges so far has been addressing the misconception that cancer is too costly or complex for many countries to include within their UHC packages.  It is important for cancer advocates to use the growing body of evidence about the burden of cancer for a country’s economy as well as cost-effective interventions to make the case for addressing some of the most common cancer types globally. Linking core investments for cancer and NCD services within the framework of UHC has been a priority for UICC’s advocacy work. 

Tuesday 24 September: UICC co-hosted a side-event to the HLM. It was a luncheon and roundtable discussion on cervical cancer elimination at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge.


Useful resources

There are a large number of resources available on UHC and what it means for cancer and NCDs, the list below highlights a couple of key locations where you can find out more:

Last update: 
Friday 11 October 2019