Parliaments urged to help deliver universal health coverage by 2030

Government of the Republic of Serbia /Slobodan Miljević

Parliaments are being called upon to take all legal and policy measures to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, following a resolution adopted by the 141st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Belgrade, Serbia.

“Universal health coverage is a political choice. Last month, the world’s leaders signalled their readiness to make that choice. Now, it’s time to turn those commitments into health results,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, welcoming the resolution’s adoption by parliamentarians from around the world.

The resolution, which seeks to accelerate progress for UHC for up to 5 billion people currently estimated to lack access to essential health services, comes just 1 month after heads of state agreed a high-level United Nations political declaration on UHC in New York, United States of America.

Dr Tedros focused on the importance of this resolution in achieving UHC: “Parliamentarians have a vital role to play in making this happen. Because it’s parliamentarians who pass laws and allocate funding. It’s parliaments who keep the government accountable for the commitments it’s made and who forge the partnerships that help countries make universal health coverage a reality.”

Like the United Nations declaration, the resolution highlights the importance of assuring strong primary health care – the provision of essential health services at the community level – and strengthening health systems.

It also emphasizes the role that strong health systems and services can play in assuring global health security. Only when the most vulnerable groups obtain health care can a country protect its people and prevent outbreaks from turning into epidemics.

The resolution includes a strong focus on the health of women, children and adolescents, including sexual and reproductive health, as a key component of UHC. It ends with a request to WHO to work with the IPU and other partners to support the implementation of the resolution at global, regional and country levels and to monitor progress.

Dr Tedros used this opportunity to meet with Serbian Prime Minister Ms Ana Brnabić, First Deputy Prime Minister Mr Ivica Dačić and Minister of Health Dr Zlatibor Lončar.

Ms Brnabić stressed the importance of Serbia’s cooperation with WHO in improving the health and well-being of Serbia’s citizens. She said that Serbia has put UHC at the top of its health policy priorities and set up an interagency working group to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Prime Minister added that Serbia has made significant progress on UHC over the last 10 years, with the average life expectancy now 75.4 years.

Dr Tedros said that WHO in Serbia will work to deepen and strengthen cooperation in line with the WHO 13th General Programme of Work. This will include focusing on UHC, enhancing responses to different health challenges in emergencies, and promoting health and well-being for all. This will also involve working to reduce major risk factors for chronic noncommunicable diseases, such as tobacco use.

Mr Dačić thanked WHO for the realization of various projects, and especially for its technical assistance and expertise. He emphasized that Serbia recognizes the importance of implementing the 2030 Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

The WHO Country Office in Serbia and the Serbian Ministry of Health organized a field visit for the representatives of the IPU to the Students’ Policlinic in Belgrade. This was a great opportunity for representatives of parliaments, the Global Fund, WHO and other institutions to find out more about the health system in Serbia, and hear about lessons learned from the process of securing UHC.