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Ministers rally behind universal health coverage

14 May 2019

Commonwealth ministers of health will meet this Sunday, 19 May in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss how to accelerate universal health coverage (UHC) in their countries, in order to safeguard vulnerable populations.

An estimated 400 million people are currently without access to basic health services, while every year 100 million slide back into poverty due to healthcare expenses. Women, young people, adolescents and people with disabilities and mental health challenges are especially at risk.

Chaired by Fiji’s Health Minister Iferemi Waqainabete, the event is an opportunity to share best practices and agree on collective and national actions to boost health coverage and social protection.

Key issues on the agenda include: mental health, violence and sexual and reproductive health, UHC for women and girls, building resilience to communicable diseases and climate change, and strategies to finance UHC such as national health insurance systems. 

Agreed outcomes at the meeting will feed into health policies in the 53 Commonwealth member states, as well as in international fora such as the upcoming UN General Assembly and the Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting.

Dr Waqainabete said: “We should envision to make health services accessible to all people, regardless of their age, race, gender, geographical challenges, and financial background. We should strive to break the barriers in health service delivery and embark on a mission to ensure that not a single person is left devoid of basic healthcare.”

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland added: “Universal health coverage is vital to there being a sustainable, affordable and dignified future for all our citizens, and an essential component in delivering our Commonwealth ambition of sustainable economic and social development, in which no individuals or communities are left behind. It is within this context that Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting will consider practical ways of achieving the health-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals."

Ministers will look at a proposed toolkit and advocacy guide for advancing UHC in the Commonwealth, with a focus on the political economy. They will also be updated on a price-sharing database for medicines, currently in development, aimed at cutting the costs of essential medicines, vaccines and technologies.

Based on the meeting, a Commonwealth ministerial statement will be delivered by the Chair at the 72nd World Health Assembly on 20-28 May.

Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting 2019