World leaders are being asked to make important commitments to improve global public health at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 78) in New York. The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on leaders to put the health of all people at the top of their political agenda.
This call from WHO comes as the world faces several crises related to humanitarian issues and climate change, which are putting lives and jobs at risk worldwide.
WHO wants leaders to speed up progress in achieving health goals before the Sustainable Development Goals Summit (SDG Summit). This includes strengthening measures to prevent and respond to pandemics, providing healthcare for everyone, and ending tuberculosis (TB).
Government leaders are gathering to make commitments in three major health areas. They have a chance to show that investing in health is important and not just an expense. Good health is crucial for families, communities, and economies to thrive.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that when health is at risk, everything is at risk. It caused major problems in the economy, society, and politics. It also slowed down or reversed progress towards health goals in the Sustainable Development Goals. The UN General Assembly is the time for world leaders to prove they’ve learned from the pandemic and take real steps to make the world healthier, safer, and fairer for everyone.”
Progress in reducing infant and maternal mortality has stalled, and in some areas, these rates have even gone up. Efforts to combat diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria have also faced setbacks. In many parts of the world, sexual and reproductive health and rights are being limited. Access to lifesaving healthcare varies across the world, with millions of people unable to get the care they need because they can’t afford it. Noncommunicable diseases and mental health issues, which cause more than 70% of global deaths, are threatening social and economic development. However, there have been positive developments in new technologies and a renewed commitment to fairness and sharing after the pandemic.
Dr. Tedros said, “Poor health takes away opportunities for individuals, families, communities, and entire nations to grow and prosper. The fact that billions of people can’t get or afford essential health services puts them at risk of poverty, diseases like TB, and the impact of future epidemics and pandemics. In WHO’s 75th year, we’re reminding the world that health is not just a basic human right but also the foundation of safe, peaceful, and prosperous societies.”
Dr. Tedros will lead WHO’s team at the UN General Assembly, and they will take part in high-level meetings and other events, including the launch of an updated UHC Global Monitoring Report.
The WHO Walk the Talk event on September 17 in New York’s Central Park will start the UNGA 78 session. It aims to promote physical and mental health and celebrate WHO’s 75th anniversary. Everyone can join the event to run, walk, or use a wheelchair on a roughly 4-mile route. There will be performances and speeches by various artists and speakers.
At the SDG Summit on September 18-19, Heads of State and Government will review progress toward achieving healthy lives and well-being for all by 2030, considering the ongoing global crises.
On September 20, the UN High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPPR) will bring together Member States to discuss how to prevent and prepare for pandemics and their social, health, and economic impacts. The goal is to get governments at all levels to take action. Two panels during the meeting will focus on fairness through governance and accountability, as well as building the capacity and securing timely, sustainable, and innovative funding and investment.
The High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage on September 21 will gather countries and stakeholders to speed up progress toward providing health for everyone. They will review the implementation of the 2019 Political Declaration and find solutions to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
On September 22, the High-Level Meeting on the fight against tuberculosis (TB) will assess progress towards ending the TB epidemic by 2030 and ensuring equal access to prevention, testing, treatment, and care, as set out in the 2018 Political Declaration of the first General Assembly high-level meeting on TB. Stakeholders will identify gaps and solutions to accelerate progress in this area.