UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- A political declaration on universal health coverage was approved by acclamation during a high-level United Nations (UN) meeting on Monday, marking world leaders' determination to advance toward full primary health coverage for their citizens.
The document included commitments to progressively cover one billion additional people by 2023 with quality essential health services and quality, safe, effective, affordable and essential medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and health technologies, with a view to cover all people by 2030.
Other commitments elaborated in the political declaration included stopping the rising and reversing the trend of catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenditure by providing measures to assure financial risk protection and eliminate impoverishment due to health-related expenses by 2030, with special emphasis on the poor as well as those who are vulnerable or in vulnerable situations.
The political declaration was hailed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as "the most comprehensive agreement ever reached on global health." He described it as an "important landmark" on the journey to health for all.
"This is a significant achievement that will drive progress over the next decade on communicable diseases including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, while addressing non-communicable disease and antimicrobial resistance through robust and resilient primary health care systems," he said.
"I saw firsthand the vital need for such systems when I met health workers and patients affected by the Ebola outbreak during my recent trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo," the UN chief said.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the declaration represents "a landmark for global health and development" as the world has 11 years left to make good on its sustainable development goal of good health and well-being.
Addressing the high-level meeting convened by the UN General Assembly, Guterres said that universal health coverage is at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"Health for all is an investment in people, in their well-being and in healthy and prosperous societies. Universal health coverage has proved to be a catalyst for economic growth that benefits individuals, families, communities, businesses, and economies," he said.
"Good health is both an outcome and a driver of economic and social progress. That is why universal health coverage is at the center of the 2030 Agenda and is inseparable from all of our work on sustainable development, be it climate change, or gender equality, or indeed sustainable financing or zero hunger."
The meeting, themed "Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World," was aimed to garner financial and political commitments from countries and sustain health investments.
Wang Hesheng, vice minister of the National Health Commission of China, submitted to the meeting a statement entitled "Promoting Universal Health Coverage: Sharing a Prosperous and Healthy Future" on behalf of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Health Working Group.
"We call for joint efforts to embrace UHC (universal health coverage) by encouraging governments to take a leadership role, promoting people-centered, quality, and efficient primary health care delivery, increasing health investment and optimizing the allocation and utilization of health funds, improving equitable access to health care services and health insurance, empowering individuals, families and communities, expanding social participation and strengthening international cooperation," Wang told the meeting.
As the biggest developing country, China has been a staunch supporter of the UN and an active participant in its development cause, said Wang.
"Over the past half century, we have dispatched 26,000 medical and nursing practitioners to 71 countries and regions where they have treated 280 million patients," Wang said.
He noted that in order to adhere to the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration, China actively builds a "Healthy Silk Road," focuses on "maintaining health security, facilitating health development and promoting health innovation," and works together with relevant countries to address health challenges.
"Through the implementation of major measures including the establishment of the China-UN Peace and Development Fund, the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, and the China-Africa Health Care Initiative, China has provided strong support for other developing countries in their efforts to achieve universal health coverage and sustainable development," he said.