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From the World Health Assembly to the High-level Meeting – full steam ahead!

The 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) wound up in Geneva a couple of weeks ago, following ten days of Member State discussions, side events, networking and advocacy on key global health issues. Save the Children was in full force advocating for improved policy and action on universal health coverage (UHC) and primary health care, among other issues.

This is a critical period for the UHC movement with UHC high on the global agenda – from the Primary Healthcare Conference in Astana, to the WHA, and now on to the High-level meeting (HLM) on UHC in September (with other notable moments in between – such as the World Bank Spring meetings, G7 and G20, and most important, those at national level). A key moment to build political momentum in the lead up to the HLM (read my previous blog on this), the WHA saw the passing of three critical UHC resolutions with strong support – on primary health care, community health workers and the upcoming HLM.

During the meeting, Dr Tedros underscored what a decisive moment the HLM would be for public health, calling for a strong Political Declaration and for Member States to bring their Heads of State to the meeting. Together with partners, Save the Children organised a WHA side event on ’Action and Accountability on UHC: Building momentum towards the UN High-level meeting on UHC’ – it was a packed house with over 100 people in attendance and a fantastic panel with Member State representatives from Thailand, Tunisia, and Japan, the Global Financing Facility, UHC2030, the World Health Organization and importantly, community testimonies from Liberia, Ghana and Georgia. We also launched our UHC and Accountability Index (check out my colleague’s blog for more on this).

Our side event on universal health coverage at the WHA

Save the Children is calling for UHC action from governments, including donors, ahead of the HLM, including increased public investment to at least 5% of GDP and transformative aid that supports domestic resource mobilisation. With just over three months to go until the HLM, we must ramp up efforts to make sure the HLM is truly a transformational moment. Governments must show they are committed to making UHC a reality for the 3–5 billion people missing out on basic healthcare or being driven into poverty to meet basic health needs. However, governments must go beyond words, putting their money where their money is and investing in their health systems.

Civil society must demand action from their governments and hold them to account on this. CSOs in numerous countries are holding national multi-stakeholder consultations for the HLM and using UHC questionnaires as a platform to call for action. We must also ensure that the HLM results in a strong Political Declaration, with bold commitments.

At the WHA, Dr Tedros called on Member States to return to Geneva in a year’s time ready to report on the steps they have taken, and the progress they have made on primary health care and UHC. This is critical to ensure that positive commitments on the global stage, don’t remain mere words, but are translated into action at national level. WHA and SDG reporting are important accountability mechanisms to support this. However, if not more important, these commitments must not be left in Geneva and New York, they must be taken back to national level, with wide public awareness of what their governments have committed to so that an empowered civil society and others can hold them to account on their promises. We must ensure that #HealthForAll becomes a reality across all countries and communities.


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