Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly – Gearing up for a historic UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage

27 May, 2023

WHO Note for Media, 26 May 2023

Read online:

Text of note follows and a Comment from me below.

Gearing up for a historic UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage

Member States expressed alarm that millions of people cannot access life-saving and health-enhancing interventions. Out-of-pocket spending on health catastrophically affects over 1 billion people, pushing hundreds of millions of people into extreme poverty. The situation has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, Member States agreed a resolution supporting preparations for the United Nations High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in September 2023. UHC means that all people have access to the full range of quality health services they need without financial hardship.

In a transformative policy shift, Member States across high-, middle- and low-income countries expressed strong commitment to reorient their health systems based on primary health care (PHC) as a foundation for achieving health for all and reaching the furthest left behind first. About 90% of UHC interventions can be delivered using a PHC approach; from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care, potentially saving 60 million lives by 2030.

The Member States emphasized the importance of demonstrating the highest-level political commitment at the HLM in September with the aim of achieving resulting in a concise, action-oriented declaration for UHC.


COMMENT (NPW): I would add that quality of care is just as important as access and affordability. As we have discussed on HIFA, a 2018 Lancet paper estimated that 5-8 million deaths are caused by poor quality care every year (as we pointed out at the time, the true figure is probably much higher higher because it did not include care in the home or community before reaching a health facility). The Lancet paper did not estimate the number of deaths due to poor-quality primary versus secondary care. Quality of care is fundamentally dependent on the timely application of reliable healthcare information, and most deaths are probably (arguably, as we do not know the numbers) avoidable through the timely application of reliable healthcare information, even with minimal physical resources.

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: