Helen Clark: Speech at Japan Side Event “Post-2015: Health and Development”

Sep 25, 2013

Helen Clark, Administrator UNDP
Statement at
Japan Side Event “Post-2015: Health and Development”
United Nations New York
25 September 2013, 11:00-12:00 noon

The Secretary General could not be here today and has asked me to represent him here. 

Our special thanks go to the Government of Japan for hosting this important event.  Japan makes a major contribution to global health, human security, and development. It is a significant contributer to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and has recently initiated an innovative public-private partnership, the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, to help bring new health technologies to the world’s poorest people.  Japan’s continued leadership in global health is commendable.

Health is a core component of human development. From 1990, UNDP’s annual Human Development Reports have defined human development in terms of the capacity to live ‘long, healthy and creative lives’. Three of the current MDGs are about health.  In the global ‘My World’ survey on what people around the world want the post-2015 development agenda to look like, health was identified as the second highest priority after education, followed by better job opportunities and an honest and responsive government.

The health and development agenda is a challenging one – the battle against preventable death and disease is ongoing, health inequities within many countries are large, and non-communicable diseases are becoming a significant problem in developing countries.  Investments in fighting infectious diseases must be maintained.  In facing these challenges, partnership models need to be refreshed; and health and development architecture at global, national and local levels must become more effective, integrated, nimble, and responsive.

The challenge now is how to frame health in the post-2015 development agenda. The important global consultation on health led by WHO and UNICEF for the UN system and the Governments of Botswana and Sweden has laid out fresh, new thinking. Participants proposed a single, outcome-oriented health goal: to maximize healthy lives. Universal health coverage and action on the social determinants of health would both contribute to reaching that goal.

Universal health coverage is a critical investment in human security and development. Some 100 million people are pushed into poverty each year because of out-of-pocket health care costs. If our aim is to eradicate extreme poverty, universal health coverage will have a central role to play.

Yet universal health coverage is not a panacea. Health inequities persist – in rich and poor countries alike – even when health care is free and of high quality. These inequities are rooted in broader social and economic inequities which affect people’s ability to access health care. Social determinants also influence exposure to risk, such as unsafe sex, tobacco use, or poor nutrition. Realizing the contribution of universal health coverage to ensuring healthy lives means also paying close attention to the social determinants of health. A holistic approach will also ensure that our investments in health not only maximize healthy lives, but also promote human security, human rights and human development.

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