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Today on World Health Day 2023, the theme 'Health for All' beckons all of us in the global health community to focus on accelerating progress on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Often, we advocates get very technical in how we discuss UHC and declare we must “expand equitable access to care,” or “ensure financial-risk protection,” and of course, “ensure that no one is left behind.” As we should, as these are all critical components of UHC and a major cornerstone of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – particularly SDG 3.8: achieving 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.
However, if we simplify the vernacular, a more fundamental reason should always be recognised for why we strive for this. Today, the lack of access to healthcare negatively affects billions of people across the globe. Delays in diagnosis and treatment, a lack of access to health interventions and out-of-pocket payments with the potential to devastate lives are just some of the factors that result in suboptimal health and societal outcomes in all regions of the world.
As tracked by the WHO, the World Bank and the OECD’s UHC Service Coverage Index, more than half of the world’s inhabitants still do not have access to essential health services and almost one billion people face devastating out-of-pocket payments reaching over 10% of their total income.
The issue of UHC is too big for any individual stakeholders to address on their own. We firmly believe that we can only achieve UHC through a meaningful collaboration of all players
But while there is plenty of work ahead, we should also acknowledge the tailwinds supporting us. There is a growing recognition that a strong, stable, and financially sustainable health system will generate a healthier and more productive society - enabling participation in a healthier economy. Health, in this sense, truly does bring wealth.
In the spirit of 'Health for All', how can we achieve this aspiration into action and ultimately create sustained political momentum for achieving UHC?
Simply put, we must work together.
The first Political Declaration on UHC in 2019 recognised this urgent need to build stronger partnerships and develop more constructive engagement with the private sector. A second UN High-Level Meeting on UHC will take place in September 2023 to review progress and deliver a new resolution to double down efforts to meet the goal of UHC by 2030.
At Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) we view our role seriously in the drive towards UHC and we are prepared to join hands with our partners in the global health community. We know that UHC is the backbone of robust, resilient health systems needed to deliver greater global health equity – a goal we all share.
The issue of UHC is too big for any individual stakeholders to address on their own. We firmly believe that we can only achieve UHC through a meaningful collaboration of all players, including governments, the private sector, and non-governmental actors. We are engaged in numerous partnerships to build capacity, improve health literacy, healthcare delivery models and healthcare access and quality.
As a leading member of Access Accelerated, we collaborate with important multilateral organisations, civil society and healthcare professionals to address inequities in non-communicable disease (NCD) care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Via Access Accelerated, we partner with the World Bank to support countries to develop and implement effective, scalable, and sustainable NCD solutions which foster policy change towards the inclusion of NCDs in UHC policies and increase country NCD commitments through sustainable health financing solutions. From 2017-2021, evidence generated from Access Accelerated partners and World Bank seed projects helped secure USD355 million in new investments in NCDs, delivering national policy change in 15 countries. In 2022 the Access Accelerated-World Bank collaboration extended to 36 countries across 5 continents.
Also on the Forum Network: Holistic Environmental Policies Have the Opportunity to Address Health Disparities. Here’s How. by Amadou Diarra, Ph.D. Senior Vice President, Global Policy & Government Affairs, Bristol Myers Squibb
There is an indisputable link between the climate crisis and the growing burden of disease and lack of health care access that disproportionality impact vulnerable populations.
Another core tenet of our approach to health equity is healthcare capacity building through various mechanisms such as healthcare professional training and patient/community education. We support City Cancer Challenge (C/Can) to raise the quality of cancer care from the ground up at the city-level in LMICs around the world. C/Can has developed a new model of addressing access to cancer care that, for the first time, leverages the city as a key enabler in a health systems response to cancer, with a view to demonstrate the value added to society of these efforts and stimulate national governments to create sustainable change. C/Can is enabling decision-makers at the city and national levels to identify relevant cancer care policies that need to be prioritized to improve access to quality cancer care across the patient journey and is developing a set of quality care indicators specifically tailored for LMICs.
In addition, the BMS Foundation, an independent charitable organisation, focuses on broader healthcare initiatives that unlock critical system components to enable better access to care including strengthening healthcare worker capacity, integrating medical care and community support services, and mobilising communities. As one example, through its Global Cancer Disparities-Africa initiative, the BMS Foundation is drawing on its experience and infrastructure for innovative clinical and community approaches in HIV/AIDS, to now address cancer care disparities in Africa.
We are firmly committed to joining hands with for the global health community to improve access to quality healthcare and ensure the promise of UHC becomes a reality for patients, families, and communities around the world. By doing so together, we will build healthier communities and stronger economies.
Against the UN 2030 clock, we will need to continue to work in partnership to drive solutions. The more stakeholders that rally to work together to advance healthcare solutions, the farther we will go.
The OECD monitors and evaluates these key aspects of universal health coverage, and assesses the future sustainability of universal health systems. Learn more!