The Universal Health Coverage Forum 2017 (12 – 15 December) in Tokyo sees leaders, donors, civil society, health providers and academics, including researchers from IDS, come together to agree the best way forward to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of health for all by 2030. A vital component for discussion will be pandemic preparedness and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), but both of those will not be possible without securing the foundations of strong and fair health systems to deliver basic every day health care and prevention.
Access to affordable health care
The ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have prioritised ‘health for all’, which means access to quality and vital healthcare services, medicines and vaccines and without the fear of ending up in debt.
Gerry Bloom, IDS Research Fellow, attending the UHC2030 Forum, says: “Around the globe 400 million people lack access to one or more essential health services. World leaders meeting in Japan must reaffirm support for the SDG on achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030 and discuss concrete ways to help countries, along with private sector, donors and civil society, make progress towards it.”
As highlighted in What does the end of Africa’s boom mean for UHC?, Gerry argues that UHC will require substantial increases in health spending and the proportion funded through taxation or social insurance to make health care affordable for all. It presents a major challenge in Africa, where an economic downturn is projected in a number of resource-dependent countries, such as Mozambique and Guinea Bissau and where countries such as Sierra Leone have weakened health systems.
Poverty, poor health and AMR
Inequalities such as poverty, lack of access to education or healthcare, continue to undermine the health of populations in both developing and developed countries. For example, research shows that the needs of the poorest must be central to tackling antibiotic resistance and that solving AMR will not be possible globally without strong health systems and international partnerships.
The Forum will discuss these wider issues and talks will hope to look beyond the simplistic view of just providing medicine to improve health but take a look at the ‘bigger picture’ and the true causes of poor health, and the needs of people when it comes to addressing them.
United political action needed
Complex politics and power dynamics can limit or skew people’s abilities to access services or hold them to account, particularly for poor and marginalised people. We need united and political action to achieve UHC. While political commitment appears to be growing, in practice there remain many challenges. Leaders need to help build the political commitment necessary to overcome inevitable resistance to change at the country level, enhance investments in strengthening health systems, make health systems more accountable and help support the development of relevant and timely knowledge.
As IDS director, Melissa Leach explains in the Health Systems Global short film: What is Health Policy and Systems Research and how can it strengthen Health Systems?, it is ‘vital to integrate health policy and systems research into crises and incidents when shocks happen, otherwise we cannot respond to them properly and we cannot build systems that will be more resilient in the future’.
Through its close relationship with Health Systems Global (HSG), IDS will be participating specifically in two side events at the forum:
- Domestic Financing of HPSR: Key to UHC – 12 December
- Embedding Health Systems Research within Health Systems to Achieve UHC (with Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (AHPSR)) – 15 December
Photo credit: Giacomo Pirozzi / Panos