UHC Agenda at the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva May 31, 2017

UHC Agenda at the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva

Photo credit: ncdalliance

It has been an exciting ten days for the world of UHC. The 70th World Health Assembly (#WHA2017) kicked off with the announcement of the new World Health Organization (WHO) Director General (DG), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Health of Ethiopia. The now first African DG was nominated by member states winning the most votes from 186 member states.

Promising to prioritize universal health coverage (UHC), Tedros said in his speech at the WHA, “Universal Health Coverage should be the center of gravity in our activities. Universal Health Coverage means as you know it — quality diagnosis and care, ensuring access to quality drugs and addressing the financial barriers to health.”

The WHA meets yearly in Geneva, Switzerland, to hold committee and plenary sessions attended by delegations from WHO’s 194 member states  to review the past year, future goals and priorities for the upcoming year. The themes in focus for this year included:

  • Medicines and health products
  • Noncommunicable diseases
  • Nutrition
  • Emergencies preparedness, response
  • Poliomyelitis (polio)
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health.

Takeaways on UHC from WHA 2017

A technical briefing, “Universal Health Coverage: Sustained commitment and concrete achievements” was hosted by the WHO, The Elders, the World Bank Group and the UN Foundation. For the first time ever, the panel comprised past, current and the incoming WHO DG’s, who shared their common vision for UHC.

Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant DG for Health Systems and Innovation, noted UHC is a realistic goal for all countries irrespective of their economic status.

Countries such as China, Chile, Greece and Côte d'Ivoire shared the strategies and policies they are implementing for UHC. The discussions led to five key takeaways:

1) Health is a right;
2) Health is first;
3) We must leave no one behind;
4) Countries should aim for public financing of 5% of GDP for health and finally; and
5) All roads lead to UHC.


In addition, several technical side events were held May 19-30. The following are some highlights of events held by UHC2030 partners and associate networks:

For full list of UHC2030 side meetings at the 70th WHA, click here.