APEC member economies renew commitment to universal health coverage


Narong Aphikulvanich, Chair of the APEC Health Working Group | Photo via APEC

NEW YORK – Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies renewed their commitment to universal health coverage (UHC) and pledged to accelerate progress towards achieving UHC by 2030, presented at the 2023 United Nations High-level meeting (UN HLM) on UHC in New York on 21 September.

Through the APEC Health Working Group, a regional forum dedicated to demonstrating the value of health to economic growth and development, member economies delivered a consensus statement on UHC at the meeting, adding the group’s unique perspective to the global discussion on this crucial topic.

The mandate of the Health Working Group is to work with partners to improve people’s health and well-being, aiming to promote trade, security, inclusive growth, and development in the APEC region.

The Health Working Group aims to help reduce the impact of health-related threats to the economy, trade, and security of member economies. Also, to strengthen health systems to increase their efficiency, responsiveness, and resilience to achieve and maintain universal health coverage.

The 2023 statement underscored the interdependence between health and the economy, as shown by the COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impact. For this reason, APEC members reaffirmed their efforts to strengthen health systems, especially in enhancing preparedness and response to public health emergencies.

“Achieving UHC will ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all through the life course, as well as build a healthier world for all,” said Narong Aphikulvanich, Chair of the APEC Health Working Group.

The statement reiterates APEC members commitment to achieve UHC through:

  • the primary role and responsibility of governments
  • a multisectoral approach involving the private sector and civil society in solutions.
  • promoting, inclusive, people-centered, community-based, quality, responsive, and efficient primary health care delivery
  • increasing health investments, including health and social innovation, and optimizing the allocation and utilization of health funds
  • improving equitable access to health services and health insurance, including those in vulnerable situations
  • empowering individuals, families and communities to embrace UHC, and
  • promoting immunization and preventative health care services as well as the continuum of care while protecting households’ financial risk due to health expenses

Last August, on the sidelines of the APEC High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy held in Seattle, governments, private sector, and non-governmental stakeholders convened to advance understanding and further align on key priorities related to UHC.

The working breakfast featured an expert panel and an open discussion to drive collective action towards achieving UHC by 2030. Notable actions include multi-stakeholder contributions to unlock transformative innovations and foster effective partnerships, as well as the need for collaboration to finance critical gaps and ensure that the path to UHC empowers individuals, families, and communities.

— With Jay Domingo/PDM

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