Asia Pacific ministers show support for achieving universal health coverage

17 Sep 20

More than 40 finance and health ministers from across the Asia Pacific region have pledged their support for universal health coverage.

 

At a virtual meeting convened by the Asian Development Bank, the ministers stressed the importance of ensuring healthcare for all citizens, and the need for stronger collaboration to mobilise healthcare financing, both during the pandemic and beyond.

“We have to build health systems where people from all walks of life, including the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable, can access health services at an affordable cost, while maintaining these health systems’ financial sustainability – even in ageing societies that many countries in Asia and the Pacific are heading toward,” said ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa.

“In this regard, close collaboration between finance and health ministers is crucial for our member economies to provide cost-effective, inclusive and high-quality health interventions, underpinned by sustainable finance.”

The meeting was also organised by the government of Japan and the World Health Organisation.

Among the supporters of universal health coverage were ministers from South Korea, Fiji, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Each year, the high cost of healthcare drives tens of millions of people in the region into poverty.

And during the pandemic, countries with universal coverage have been better able to mobilise disease prevention and control methods, such as testing, contact tracing and isolation, the ADB said.

The past 50 years have seen “great strides in improving population health”, the development bank said, but Covid-19 has exposed gaps in preparedness and some governments’ ability to respond to crises.

To meet these challenges, the ADB said it wants to increase its focus on healthcare, raising the amount of its total financial commitments that go to the sector from 2.66% in 2019 to 5% by 2030.

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