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Addressing the WHO on health financing

The Executive Board Meeting

I am at the 128th annual meeting of the World Health Organisation‘s (WHO) Executive Board in Geneva, which sets the agenda for the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May, and just presented a statement during the session on health system strengthening, based on the reports prepared by the Secretariat. It was very exciting to be given the opportunity to speak on behalf of Save the Children UK to such a senior audience, including the Director General of the WHO!

In the address, I urged the Executive Board to act on the consensus now reached and articulated in the 2010 World Health Report (WHR), which states that fees charged when accessing health services disproportionately affect the poor and should therefore be removed. Equitable health financing mechanisms should be put in place to facilitate universal coverage (see my earlier blog on the launch of the WHR).  As an example, in the UK, individuals contribute towards the national health service through their income tax. This mechanism is progressive – ie, it is related to an individual’s ability to pay, and not related to their need to use health services, so the costs of care do not favour the wealthy and healthy over the poor and unhealthy.

During their meeting this week, the Board has the potential to enshrine this position through supporting a strong resolution, which would be considered and hopefully adopted at the WHA.

Germany has developed a draft resolution, on which other Member States comment and propose amendments. It’s a complicated diplomatic process whereby governments try to agree on the specific wording, and the danger is that the language can become very diluted in order to reach consensus. It will be further discussed on Friday, and hopefully agreed upon so that it remains an agenda item for consideration in May. As I noted in the statement, the draft resolution is a very good start, and we would encourage wide sponsorship by Member States. However, to reflect the positions taken in the WHR, its language around the removal of direct payments at the point of use should be strengthened.

My fingers are crossed that supportive nations, including the UK, will push for such changes to give the resolution sufficient clout. In turn that will drive and shape equitable national policy reform to provide financial and social risk protection to all so that no one will be unable to access essential health care because they can’t afford it.

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