The Forum of International Respiratory Societies attends United Nations hearing on universal health coverage

    On 29 April 2019, the Forum of International Respiratory (FIRS) attended and presented comments at the interactive multi-stakeholder hearing at the United Nations in New York. The hearing was part of the preparatory process for the UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which will take place on 23 September 2019 in New York.

    “Universal Health Coverage” is a call for more effective and universal medical care, where all people receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.

    • At least half of the world’s population still do not have full coverage of essential health services.
    • About 100 million people are still being pushed into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health care.
    • Over 800 million people (almost 12% of the world’s population) spent at least 10% of their household budgets to pay for health care.

    Universal coverage is particularly important to persons with respiratory disease. For example, a break in the supply of medicine for a patient with tuberculosis could cause the development of drug resistance, which carries serious consequences. The abrupt unavailability of asthma medicine could cause severe suffering and even death. Lack of health care provider availability usually means delay in diagnosis, which could be fatal for lung cancer patients.

    The hearing provided a unique opportunity to mobilise voices from a broad range of multi-sectoral stakeholders. FIRS presented comments, emphasising the following essential parts of UHC:

    • Strengthening health care workers
    • Prioritising prevention, especially on tobacco, air pollution, and vaccinations
    • Maintaining a continuous supply of essential medicines
    • Stemming antibiotic resistance

    The outcome of the hearing will inform the preparation of the zero-draft political declaration on UHC that will be negotiated by Member States.