It is time to climb through our 15 year window

Monday, 1 February 2016

They say that in the past, governments avoided international scrutiny of their national health policies by evoking sovereignty as a defence. Things have changed over the last fifteen years as global health governance starts taking root.

“Global health governance” refers to the use of formal and informal institutions, rules, and processes in advocacy by states, intergovernmental organizations, and non-state actors to effectively deal with challenges to health that require cross-border collective action.

A new opportunity

International health and patients’ organizations are excited that a new opportunity has arisen for them to influence global health. The United Nations (UN) Resolution A/RES/70/1 Sustainable Development Goals 2030, passed at the 70th UN Summit in New York in September 2015, has made universal health coverage a global health governance matter.  Under Sustainable Development Goal 3.8, each member state will:

Achieve Universal Health Coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. (SDG 3.8)

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines universal health coverage (UHC) as ensuring that all people can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.

Currently, fewer than 80 countries out of the 193 UN member states have some sort of UHC.* Out of these, fewer than 60 cover over 90% of their population. For those countries that do have UHC of sorts, it is unsustainable or its coverage, quality and safety seem to be unsustainable.

What comes next

We have a 15 year window to get what we have advocated for over the last 15 years. The most lucrative opportunity for patient advocates is that we can now collaborate with and form effective partnerships with large civil society networks comprising international development, human rights, gender equality and social reform NGOs, at national and international level. We can hold our governments accountable on delivering UHC by 2030 as a part of SDG 2030.

For patients’ organizations and advocates in countries without UHC, you can now monitor and track your country’s progress towards UHC by working with the powerful international SDG 2030 community to hold your governments accountable. 

For patients’ organizations in high and middle income countries that already have UHC, their challenge is different over the next 15 years. Due to demographic, technological, social and political changes their UHC may no longer be sustainable: you need to hold your governments accountable to ensure the quality, safety and coverage of your UHC.

* Statistics from:

Image caption: A child from the Zaatari Refugee Camp raised a flag to represent Goal 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, in Jordan, to support the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Credit:unicefjordan/badran

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