The “UHC and the Power of People” event convened the day after the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC, during which world leaders adopted the high-level UN Political Declaration on UHC, the most comprehensive health agreement ever made at this level.
Investment, policy, action: A choice and an imperative
“UHC will take a unique shape in each country,” Haruhiko Hirate, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs Officer at Takeda, said at the event, “but in all its forms, UHC, at its core, is about keeping people healthy and preventing disease. We can’t do this without a strong, qualified health workforce.”
Mr. Raj Kumar, Editor-in-Chief of Devex, pointed out that “while we know the health workforce is essential, there aren’t obvious narratives that show us how to develop that workforce.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Vanessa Kerry, CEO of Seed Global Health, explained that even today, millions of people do not have access to quality care. “Lack of quality care causes harm,” she said. “The political declaration for UHC is incredibly important, and it is rightly person-centered, but it doesn’t translate into action, and it doesn’t close the financing gap. Closing that gap is a choice – one we must make.”
Governments must lead the charge on making that choice, argued Dr. Diane Gashumba, Minister of Health for Rwanda. “After the  genocide, we had to set priorities. We chose to focus on primary health care and train community health workers,” she said. She credited these investments with her country’s success in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and putting them on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Good governance and political leadership are invaluable,” agreed Professor Keizo Takemi, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for UHC and Member of the Japanese House of Councilors. He added that it is essential to recognize that every country has different context and conditions, and any global UHC framework must be flexible.
But it is not just a matter of investing enough money; another challenge is to invest it wisely, said Ambassador Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy and Dr. Peter Salama, WHO Executive Director for UHC.
Dr. Francis Omaswa, Executive Director of the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation and 2019 Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize recipient, called for a shift in messaging: “Populations need to see UHC as a right. Governments need to see it as a political imperative.”
A priority for Takeda employees; a legacy of Japanese leadership