NEW YORK – A United Nations General Assembly side event involving the governments of Japan, France, Liberia, Senegal and Thailand as well as the World Health Organization, World Bank and the Global Fund was held in New York today to consider Universal Health Coverage as a key element of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Universal Health Coverage aims to ensure that everyone, everywhere can access quality health services without suffering financial hardship. It strives to break down barriers to health, such as affordability, access and insufficient health systems.

A panel of distinguished leaders discussed several key aspects of universal health coverage, including the role played by financing institutions such as the Global Fund in changing the trajectory of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. They agreed that universal health coverage will further contribute to ending the diseases as epidemics, and more broadly reduced poverty and health risks in low-income countries.

The keynote address was delivered by the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.

Prime Minister Abe said that he hoped the event would be an important step forward in promoting the formation of an alliance to bring together expertise and resources to strengthen health systems towards the ultimate goal of achieving UHC. Prime Minister Abe added, “Japan is ready to lead this global discussion.”

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization said, “Universal health coverage is the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer. It builds social cohesion and stability. It unifies services and delivers them in a comprehensive and integrated way, based on primary health care.”

Dr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, added: “Making health care accessible and affordable for all has a powerful impact on human lives, and ending epidemics is part of the solution,” Dr. Dybul said. “Our collective efforts are critical to building stronger, more resilient systems for health that can bring greater opportunity for social justice to all.”

Today’s event is one of several General Assembly side events to highlight how the global community will adapt to the emerging challenges of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals which demand a more integrated approach if countries are to make and sustain progress.