World Health Assembly, day 4: disability, development and universal health coverage on agenda

WHO/Pierre Albouy

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, takes part in discussions on disability on day 4 of the World Health Assembly

On 23 May 2013, World Health Assembly discussions covered the health sector’s contribution to the upcoming high-level meeting of the General Assembly on disability and development, to be held on 23 September 2013 in New York.

Over 1 billion people, about 15% of the world population, experience some form of disability according to the 2011 World report on disability. Due to population ageing and the increase in noncommunicable diseases, more and more people will be living with disability.

Highlights for the European Region


Speaking in plenary on the issue of disability, the delegation of Germany explained that disability is included in German development cooperation, and national policy focuses on inclusion, engagement with other sectors, civil society and the private sector.

The delegation of Turkey called for collaboration with other United Nations agencies on the issue, and suggested that disability be included in the post-2015 development agenda.

The Spanish delegation expressed their continuing commitment to prioritize disability issues.

The Swedish delegation noted that September’s high-level meeting is an opportunity to highlight disability in the context of the future development agenda, recognized the importance of strengthening data collection on the subject, and welcomed WHO’s initiative to develop an action plan.

Universal health coverage

Discussions in plenary also covered the issue of universal health coverage.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the delegation of Ireland recognized that universal health coverage is important in attaining better health, and that to be effective it requires sufficient human resources, finances and services, and a multisectoral approach. The delegation noted that universal health coverage should be part of the post-2015 development agenda, and can contribute to sustainable development.

The Swiss delegation noted the considerable progress that has been made towards universal health coverage, but warned of remaining issues of financial risk and the need to take social and economic determinants of health into consideration together with other sectors.