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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Need for Universal Health Care underscored at ADB's 53rd Annual Meeting

Finance and Health ministers vow support for Universal Health Coverage at ADB Annual Meeting

MANILA – Most finance and health ministers and deputy ministers from Asia and the pacific underscored the need for universal health coverage (UHC) and the need for closer collaboration to mobilize healthcare financing during the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank’s Board of Governors today.

During the Joint Ministers of Finance and health Symposium on Universal Health Coverage in Asia and the Pacific: COVID-19 and Beyond held virtually today, ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa reiterated ADB’s support for UHC as a foundation of strong health systems.

“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 affordable cost while maintaining these health systems’ financing sustainability, even in aging societies that many countries in in Asia and the Pacific are heading toward,” Mr. Asakawa said. He added close collaboration between finance and health ministers is crucial for member economies to provide cost-effective, inclusive, and high-quality health interventions, underpinned by sustainable finance.

In an opening video message, Japan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Taro Aso said “We will strengthen our collaboration with ADB, expecting that ADB, as the regional family doctor, would uncover the assistance needs of the region and play a leading role in promoting Universal Health Care.”

ADB, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Government of Japan jointly organized the symposium for health and finance leaders, as well as other experts from Asia and the Pacific, to formulate concrete actions that build on UHC commitments at the G20Leaders’ Summit in Osaka in June2019 and at the United Nations’ High-Level meeting in New York in September 2019.

In a statement, the ADB said each year, the cost of health care drives tens of millions of people in Asia and the pacific into poverty. And during the pandemic, countries that have achieved UHC, or are close to it, have been able to mobilize critical disease prevention and control measures, such as risk communication, testing, contact tracing, and isolation.

The Ministers of Finance and Ministers of Health from Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam today shared lessons and successful strategies from responding to COVID-19 pandemic, while discussing the role of UHC in increasing resilience to health and economic shocks.

For more than five decades, countries in Asia and the Pacific have made significant accomplishments in improving people’s health. Despite this, COVID-19 has exposed significant gaps in preparedness and response capacities and the link between health security and economic stability.

Under ADB’s Strategy 2030, the Bank has committed to support the efforts of its developing members to pursue and make Universal Health Care a reality by providing technical advice and increasing the share of health operations to 3%-5% of total commitments from the 2019 share of 2.66%. (Melo M. Acuña)

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