Africa: Director-General's Opening Remarks At the WHO Council On the Economics of Health for All - 6 May 2021


Professor Mazzucato, distinguished members of the panel, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to you all, and I'm very happy to be able to join you for the first meeting of this important new initiative.

It couldn't come at a more important time.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a vivid demonstration that a health crisis is not just a health crisis; it can have dramatic consequences for livelihoods, businesses and economies.

The pandemic has shown that when health is at risk, everything is at risk. But when health is protected and promoted, individuals, families, communities, economies and nations can thrive.

This is indeed what many of us in public health have argued for many years; that health is not a luxury item, but a fundamental human right, and the foundation of social, economic and political stability.

We have argued that health is not a cost, but an investment in productive, resilient and inclusive economies.

That's why universal health coverage is WHO's top priority.

But globally, we are going in the wrong direction. Around the world, more households are spending an increasing proportion of their income on health. And more people are being exposed to poverty as a result of out-of-pocket health spending.

It is clear that making progress towards universal health coverage cannot just be a matter for ministries of health, but takes an all-of-government approach, with leadership from the highest political levels, and close engagement with ministries of finance.

The good news is that we are living at a time of unprecedented political will for the idea of health of all.

At the United Nations General Assembly in 2019, just a few months before the pandemic started, UN Member States converged to endorse the high-level political declaration on universal health coverage.

And the pandemic has demonstrated that investments in health systems and health security are needed now more than ever.

We have a unique moment to mobilize investments for healthier, more resilient, more productive and more sustainable societies.

That's where this council can make such an important contribution.

We need a new narrative that makes health for all the central goal of public policies on innovation, industry, employment, environment and more.

We need a new approach to shaping the global economy, with the objective of building societies that are healthy, inclusive, equitable and sustainable.

We need to identify best practices from countries and communities around the world, as the basis for actionable recommendations.

And we need ideas that are both bold and practical.

Thank you so much to all of you for your commitment to this council, and to serving humanity with your expertise and experience.

We very much look forward to your thought leadership, advice and ideas as we work together for a healthier, safer, fairer world.

Thank you.

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