Excellencies, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen.
At UNICEF, we recognize that universal health coverage, and fully functioning public health systems, are fundamental — not only to people’s health, but to social and economic development.
And to the equal opportunity and level playing field that every person deserves. Without universal access to quality health care for all people, any vision of a truly equal society will remain unrealized.
Fundamental to this goal is the need for action and investment across sectors — both the public and private, and by civil society groups. And not just for the health sector, but for all of the sectors that influence health. From water and sanitation, to nutrition and education.
This holistic focus is not a new one.
Four decades ago, the Alma Ata Declaration declared stronger health services and better health outcomes to be everybody’s responsibility — not just governments, and not just the health sector. And over one decade ago, the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health issued the same call.
Since then, we’ve made good progress on many global health indicators. For example, life expectancy has improved and fewer children are dying before age five than ever before.
But we must also acknowledge that, overall, the world has failed to heed the call to bring people together across sectors to tackle this challenge.
We measure this failure in the slowing improvements in health coverage in many countries. And in in the fact that — for example — immunization and malnutrition rates have plateaued, resulting in outbreaks of disease, and children that are highly vulnerable to food shortages or natural disasters.
Health is still viewed as the responsibility of governments alone. It is not. Failing to tackle the root causes of poor health is a huge missed opportunity for entire societies.
One such root cause is inequality.
We cannot ignore the influence of poverty and inequality on health outcomes. Unequal distribution of power, money and resources continues to condemn millions of people around the world to poor health status and to low quality — or non-existent — health services in their communities.
As last year’s Astana Declaration and the 2019 World Health Assembly both reminded us, universal health coverage depends on systematically addressing the broader determinants of health — including social, economic and environmental factors.
Which means that all sectors must take ownership of promoting good health and building better, more accessible health systems. That means businesses, governments and citizens alike. Water, sanitation and hygiene systems. Food and nutrition systems. Social protection systems. The media. All of us working together to promote good health, and influence decision-makers to put health systems first.
And it means investment. Major investments from the public and private sector alike to ensure that all people — no matter who they are, or where they live — have access to good quality and affordable healthcare.
We must put health high on the global agenda — not just here at the UN, and not just in the halls of power and government.
But in boardrooms and financial institutions. With media outlets. With digital information and communications technology companies. With scientists and innovators. And with industries and corporations, small and big.
Please know that UNICEF stands with you in this effort to strengthen quality and accessible health systems for all — and to gather more partners around this essential cause.