Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at an event on universal health coverage, in New York today:
I thank our sponsoring agencies and gracious hosts for bringing us together this afternoon.
Health is at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a pre-condition, an outcome and an indicator of progress. And universal health coverage is a key that can help unlock the full ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Millennium Development Goals generated tremendous progress across the health space. However, it still remains unfinished business. Thanks to targeted investments, more women have access to modern contraception and more children are receiving vaccinations. As a result, maternal and child mortality rates have plummeted in the past 15 years. But, significant disparities persist, with inequitable access between and within countries continuing to leave our most vulnerable behind.
The sustainable development agenda reminds us that health is a fundamental human right. It calls on us to go the last mile so that we can close these pervasive gaps. The Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage share a common philosophy in their aim for inclusiveness and universality that transcend geographical distance, cultural differences, gender, citizenship and other social determinants.
We need stronger, more integrated health systems, capable of responding equitably to the unique needs of their communities so no one goes without quality health care. Investments in universal health coverage not only drive health outcomes, they also help reduce poverty, improve gender equality, strengthen economies and foster more empowered, inclusive and peaceful communities.
In a new development era, we must dissolve the silos that have traditionally governed our health financing and programming and build people-centred, human-rights-based systems. It is no longer sufficient to invest in addressing diseases alone; we must invest in health as a whole and while addressing the key social determinants of health.
Women, children and adolescents must come first in our efforts. When we protect, and promote their right to health, we shift the future of their communities for generations to come. And because they often bear the greatest share of the economic costs associated with their families’ health, programs to increase affordable care for women and girls, particularly, will be critical.
More streamlined and sustainable financing is crucial. We will require new ways of thinking to provide social protection and reduce the burden of out-of-pocket financing. More innovative collaboration between the public and private sectors will also be necessary to build the foundation for universal health coverage.
The United Nations system is committed to assisting countries achieve universal health coverage globally by 2030, with the leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO).
We are currently reviewing how we can more effectively deliver together on one agenda in countries. But, each country must walk its own path — no one size fits all. As we look ahead to the Forum on Universal Health Coverage in Tokyo this December, let us move forward with the inspiration and ambition needed to make universal health coverage a reality for everyone. Let us fulfil our pledge to leave no one behind.