By Joyce Ojanji

World leaders at the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) high-level meeting approved a new political declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) expanding their ambition for health and well-being in a post-COVID world.

In the Political Declaration, Heads of State and world leaders committed to taking key national actions, making essential investments, strengthening international cooperation and global solidarity at the highest political level to accelerate progress towards UHC by 2030, using a primary health care (PHC) approach.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), countries that have taken a PHC approach have a better ability to rapidly build stronger, more resilient health systems to reach the most vulnerable and achieve a higher return on health investments. Most importantly, they ensure that more people are covered with essential health services and are empowered to participate in making the decisions that affect their health and well-being.

It is estimated that an additional US$ 200–328 billion investment per year is needed to scale up a PHC approach in low- and middle-income countries (e.g. up to approximately 3.3% of national gross domestic product). This could help health systems deliver up to 90% of essential health services, save at least 60 million lives and increase average life expectancy by 3.7 years by 2030.

“Ultimately, universal health coverage is a choice–a political choice. The political declaration countries approved today is a strong signal that they are making that choice. But the choice is not just made on paper. It’s made in budget decisions and policy decisions. Most of all, it’s made by investing in primary health care, which is the most inclusive, equitable, and efficient path to universal health coverage,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom  WHO Director-General.

The declaration is hailed as a vital catalyst for the international community to take big and bold actions and mobilize the necessary political commitments and financial investments to attain the UHC target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Once adopted by the Assembly, the Political Declaration will be regularly monitored for implementation to identify gaps and solutions to accelerate progress and discussed at the next dedicated UN High-Level Meeting in 2027.