On the 23 September 2019, political leaders from around the world will come together for the first United Nations (UN) High-level Meeting (HLM) on universal health coverage (UHC). This presents the global cancer community with a unique opportunity to contributing to securing political commitments that prioritise UHC in national agendas, and which provide a framework for its development and implementation.
A UN HLM use the UN’s highest decision-making forum to bring together Heads of Governments from the 193 UN member states to address issues of global importance. Previous meetings have address pressing global health issues such as NCDs, TB, HIV/AIDS, and Antimicrobial resistance.
The meeting in September will be the fifth time that the UN has convened an HLM on a health-related topic. This forum provides an opportunity for UN Member States to work together to explore the issues of global importance and reach an agreement on cooperation measures and solutions to address them.
The outcome from the HLM will be a Political Declaration on UHC which will support the vision set out in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.8. As part of Agenda 2030, all countries have committed to work towards achieving UHC by 2030 and the Political Declaration aims to provide a foundation for better global cooperation and consensus in order to make progress.
This will be the most politically significant meeting on UHC to date. The Political Declaration will be negotiated by UN Member States in New York and endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the UN HLM in September. As in many cases, we anticipate that this negotiation period will be incredibly important as it will help identify where there is global consensus, as well as sticking points which are likely to shape the implementation of UHC moving forwards. One important aspect of these negotiations will be reaffirming the primary responsibility of Governments to urgently and significantly scale up efforts to deliver UHC, with a particular focus on ensuring the financial sustainability of investment and the reequipment of resilient and patient-centred health systems.
It is clear that UHC is the overarching paradigm for health over the coming years and this presents several opportunities and challenges for the global cancer community.
UHC must include key measures to address the growing burden which is second leading cause of mortality globally. The global cancer community are also well placed to engage in this discussion, using the momentum behind the 2017 cancer resolution and the calls for action on cervical cancer elimination and childhood cancer by WHO.
In addition to this, there is a strong body of evidence about the burden of cancer as well as cost-effective interventions to address some of the most common cancer types globally, and many of the interventions required for these cancers can be used as a foundation to build in services for rarer disease types over time. Making the case for the links between core investments for cancer and NCD services within the framework of UHC will be a priority for our advocacy work.
There are, however, a number of challenges which stem from the misconception that cancer is too costly or complex for many countries to include within their UHC packages. As a result, we are encouraging all UICC Members to consider how you can support UHC discussions within your country or region and help make the case to ensure that cancer is not forgotten.
There are several opportunities to get involved between now and September, the most important of which is to start conversations with your national Ministry of Health to sensitise them about the importance of including cancer within national UHC packages.
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: