01 October 2023
The United Nations General Assembly's 78th session (UNGA 78) is pivotal in our shared global history. This session resonates with the themes of recovery, renewal, and responsibility as it grapples with complex issues such as climate change, health security, economic recovery, peacekeeping, and sustainable development.
As the world navigates the complex terrain of health crises, economic challenges, and social disparities, UNGA 78 emerges as a beacon of hope. It brings together leaders, policymakers, and experts from across the globe to address the vital issue of universal health coverage.
IFPA’s presence at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2023 was significant and essential as global representatives of people living with psoriatic disease to influence the agenda and consequently improve the lives of people affected by the disease.
As we embark on this journey through UNGA 78, this article explores the high-level meetings and side events, discussions, and initiatives that promise to shape the international agenda. It explores how the global community is working together to address shared challenges, with an emphasis on the principles of inclusivity, sustainability, and cooperation.
On 20th September, the President of the United Nations General Assembly convened the first UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response (PPPR), the 2nd day of the Assembly's general debate at its 78th session.
The overall theme of the HLM was "Making the world safer: Creating and maintaining political momentum and solidarity for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response." The meeting consisted of an opening segment, a plenary segment for general discussion, two multi-stakeholder panels, and a brief closing segment. The themes for the two panels were:
1. Ensured equity through governance and accountability for PPPR by utilizing multi-sectoral coordination at all levels.
2. Ensured equity through capacity building for PPPR and harnessed timely, sustainable, and innovative financing and investment.
Using a strategy encompassing every government agency, member States can avoid pandemics and prepare for their impact through this HLM. Based on the 2019 Political Declaration, this will be the cornerstone for carrying out policies and ensuring accountability for future health system strengthening.
IFPA joined the high-level meeting to ask governments to
The second High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) was held on September 21st, 2023. The main objective of the meeting was to emphasize the importance of universal access to quality healthcare, regardless of geographical location or socioeconomic status. The meeting highlighted the significance of healthcare in improving people's lives and making the world a better place to live in.
UHC embodies the idea that every person, regardless of their background, should have access to quality healthcare services without suffering financial hardship. It goes beyond healthcare as a service; it's a recognition of healthcare as a fundamental human right.
In September 2019, world leaders at the UN endorsed a declaration supporting universal health coverage (UHC). It reaffirmed everyone's right to good physical and mental health and committed to achieving UHC by 2030. The 2023 HLM aims to create a focused declaration by reviewing the 2019 declaration, learning from COVID-19, identifying gaps, and providing evidence-based recommendations to speed up progress towards achieving universal health coverage by 2030.
On September 17, 2023, the Walk the Talk: Health for All Challenge was held in Central Park, New York, to give the high-level week of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78) an excellent start. Hosted in conjunction with the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 78), this event marked a significant moment for health advocacy and global unity.
The "Walk the Talk" event was designed to provide a spirited and healthy beginning to the high-level week of UNGA 78. Co-hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the New York City Mayor’s Office, and supported by an array of partners, including the NYC Health Commission and the UHC Partnership, it was the second edition of this health-focused initiative.
An important highlight of this year's event was the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO). It provided a perfect platform to celebrate WHO's accomplishments and its unwavering dedication to global health.
"Walk the Talk" brought together a diverse gathering of participants, including UN delegates, representatives from Member States, athletes, and the local New York Community. This collective effort served as a powerful symbol of unity in the pursuit of healthy lifestyles and a universal commitment to health for all.
Amid the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 78) on 18 September 2023, a pivotal event took center stage, bringing together global leaders, healthcare experts, and advocates in a collective effort to combat Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
Global health was in the spotlight with UN High Meetings on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPPR), and tuberculosis (TB). Leaders and advocates from national NCD alliances were present to discuss their work at the country level, progress on NCDs, and the synergy with global health priorities like UHC, PPPR, and TB.
Whilst many commitments were made by governments at these UNHLMs in 2023, the real challenge is turning those promises into tangible change on the ground. IFPA attended UNGA to ensure that the commitments made during the high-level meeting aren't forgotten after UNGA. As experts in psoriatic disease, we actively engage with the UN to provide our expert opinion. Let's make sure these commitments become actions that transform lives at the national level.
Another side event Mental Health for All: Leaving No One Behind at UNGA 78 took place on 19th September 2023. The side event was jointly hosted by the Kingdom of Belgium and the Kingdom of Bhutan, in collaboration with UNICEF, United for Global Mental Health, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In this event, speakers included- HM Queen Mathilde of Belgium, HE Dr Tandi Dorji (Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade Bhutan), Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, HE Dasho Dechen Wangmo (Minister of Health Bhutan), HE Carla Vizzotti (Minister of Health Argentina), Jérôme Salomon (Assistant Director-General, WHO), Omar Abdi (Deputy Executive Director for Programmes, UNICEF), Judah Njoroge (Basic Needs Kenya) and former Miss South Africa Shudu Musida among others.
As we navigate the complexities of a post-pandemic world, the importance of mental health has never been more evident. The theme for this session, "Mental Health for All: Leaving No One Behind," underlines the urgent need to prioritize mental well-being as an essential component of global health and human rights. According to WHO, one in four people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives. Despite this startling number, mental health has frequently been veiled in stigma and discrimination. UNGA 78 provides a unique opportunity to prioritize mental health as an integral aspect of overall health and well-being.
One of the key objectives of this UNGA session is to bridge the treatment gap. Currently, less than half of those affected by mental health disorders receive the care they need. By prioritizing mental health, governments can invest in mental health services, training for healthcare professionals, and efforts to ensure that everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, has access to quality care. As children and adolescents have been particularly affected by the disruptions caused by the pandemic, UNGA 78 presents an opportunity to invest in programs that promote mental well-being and ensure that mental health services are accessible to young people when needed. It's time for governments, organizations, and individuals to recognize that mental health is not a luxury but a fundamental human right.
Noncommunicable diseases are often associated with an increased burden on mental health and increased use of health services. Living with a non-communicable disease such as psoriatic disease is associated with an increased burden on mental health and an increased need for health services. In IFPA's report, we explored the science linking mental health and psoriatic disease. Research shows that people living with psoriatic disease are more likely to suffer from depression. A review of published scientific studies concluded that more than a quarter of people living with psoriatic disease show symptoms of depression, one in ten shows signs of clinical depression and 48% suffers from anxiety.
On September 19, at UNGA high-level meeting on UHC 2023 side event ‘Finding a New Balanced Financing Strategy: Politics Versus Reality in Achieving UHC’ took place. It was hosted by the Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives (CISDI), in collaboration with Pandemic Action Network (PAN), Global Public Investment Network (GPIN), and JOEP LANGE INSTITUTE (JLI). This event brought global leaders, policymakers, and experts from around the world together to deliberate on one of the most pressing issues of our time: achieving UHC. Under the theme "Finding a New Balanced Financing Strategy: Politics Versus Reality in Achieving UHC," this event marks a critical juncture in the ongoing effort to ensure access to essential healthcare for all, regardless of their economic status.
The primary objective of this event was to explore essential financing strategies for UHC by drawing insights from diverse healthcare financing experts, civil society representatives, government leaders, and the valuable experiences of other nations. In the event Indonesian National Health Insurance (known as JKN) scheme has been used as a central case study for in-depth discussions and analysis.
IFPA agrees with the importance of finding a sustainable financing strategy for UHC and adopting inclusive and equitable approaches. Allocating the budget for health should be seen as an investment, not an expense.
The 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly centers its focus on the theme of "Rebuilding Trust and Reigniting Global Solidarity: Accelerating Action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals." This overarching theme is geared towards achieving peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability for all. Within this context, upholding the fundamental human right to health and establishing equitable healthcare systems play a pivotal role in realizing UHC. These efforts are instrumental in constructing resilient frameworks for prevention, preparedness, and response to health emergencies.
This year, UNGA revisits this critical issue with the primary objective of ingraining UHC principles. The aim is to avert the escalation of catastrophic healthcare expenditures and the ensuing impoverishment of populations by the year 2030. The achievement of UHC holds the potential to provide continuous access to healthcare services and alleviate poverty stemming from medical expenses if it encompasses lifelong coverage for the prevention and treatment of NCDs.
Unfortunately, many nations currently face an acute shortage of healthcare professionals, particularly in primary care, with an even more pronounced deficit in specialty care personnel. The UNGA Side Event, on "Enhancing the Health Workforce Through Innovation," brought together an illustrious panel of speakers and experts representing leading global nonprofit organizations, NGOs, and government entities. It aims to foster insightful discussions and collaborative efforts to tackle the critical issue of enhancing the health of the workforce through innovative means.
Read more about IFPA’s recommendations on UHC approaches here.
UNGA 78 is a pivotal moment for global health discussions. One of the standout side events, "Unlocking Universal Health Coverage 2030: Benchmarking and Achieving Adequate Health Financing," took center stage. This event delved into the critical aspects of health financing, a cornerstone in the journey towards achieving UHC by 2023.
Achieving UHC by 2030 is an ambitious yet imperative goal. It envisions that every person, irrespective of their socio-economic status, should have access to essential healthcare services without experiencing financial hardship. Adequate health financing is the linchpin to make this vision a reality.
We are not in a good place. We are failing. Less than half of the population (4.5Billion) don’t have access to UHC and 2 Billion suffer financial hardship – Dr. Bruce Aylward.
Adequate health financing is not only essential but an achievable goal with the right strategies, innovative approaches, and global collaboration. As discussions unfold, the event promised to provide actionable insights and solutions that can propel the world toward the realization of UHC by 2030, ensuring that healthcare is a universal right for all.
At IFPA, we firmly believe in the fundamental right of every individual to receive suitable treatment for their medical condition. We recognize that healthcare expenditures for individuals with psoriatic disease should be viewed as an investment rather than a mere expense. When individuals are grappling with the challenges posed by their disease, they often find it difficult to live up to their full potential. This may lead to missed work opportunities and increased utilization of healthcare resources. However, when individuals have their disease well-managed through appropriate treatment and care, they can lead fulfilling lives, actively participate in society, and make valuable contributions to their communities.
A formal side event to the high-level meeting on universal health coverage (UHC) took place on 21st September 2023. Rare Diseases International (RDI), the Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations, and the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations organized the hybrid event ‘’Engaging the UN System and Member States to Achieve UHC for PLWRD: A Blueprint for Leaving No One Behind’’. The NGO Committee for Rare Diseases, EURORDIS-Rare Diseases Europe, Federación Espaola de Enfermedades Raras (FEDER), and Agrenska Foundation co-organized this event.
This event continued RDI and its partner's advocacy efforts, which had been ongoing for years. It all began in 2019 when the Political Declaration on UHC specifically mentioned rare diseases, and the significant UN Resolution on "Addressing the challenges of persons living with a rare disease and their families", RDI has established the fundamental principles through regional consultations.
This event aimed to establish the forthcoming actions in the implementation of UHC for Rare Diseases. "Engaging the UN System and Member States to Achieve UHC for PLWRD: A Blueprint for Leaving No One Behind" featured expert speakers, panelists, and an audience consisting of civil society, academia, research and health institutions, government ministries, regional and international organizations, as well as the private sector.
UNGA 78 serves as a platform for international collaboration, fostering dialogue and initiatives to build a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient world.
IFPA joined UNGA 78 session on Universal Health Coverage, emphasizing its role in reducing the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. If governments want to reach the Universal Health Coverage goals and fulfill the political commitments made in 2019, more progress is needed. IFPA unites with the international non-communicable disease community and asks to invest in NCD prevention, include NCD services in UHC health packages, align global priorities, and engage those living with NCDs for a people-centered approach to Universal Health Coverage.