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ESMO Position Reflected in Draft UN Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage

ESMO advocates for the needs of medical oncologists and cancer patients to be addressed in the 2023 UN Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage
12 Jun 2023

The Draft UN Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), published on 22 May 2023, reflects many of the ESMO asks for cancer care, including, continued and timely access to affordable essential health services, the establishment of interoperable disease-based registries, and for governments to prioritise the strengthening of referral systems from primary care.

Because the current text (OP5) of the draft UHC Declaration calls to ‘Strengthen referral systems between primary and other levels of care to ensure their effectiveness’, ESMO will continue to advocate for the wording of ‘other levels of care’ to specifically refer to ‘secondary and tertiary health care levels’, which is where the majority of cancer patients are treated.

Other sections of the Draft Declaration reflect ESMO’s consistent call for governments to include in their national UHC health benefit packages safe, affordable, effective and high-quality services for prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care for all NCDs, including cancer, to be delivered by an adequate, well-trained, and well-equipped workforce, in a way that does not cause financial harm to patients.

The final 2023 Political Declaration on UHC, is intended to build on the 2019 Political Declaration on UHC and aims to accelerate and intensify priority actions towards achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030. As NCDs are responsible for 74 per cent of all deaths worldwide, and an estimated 1 in 5 people develop cancer over their life course, the acknowledgement of NCDs in the 2023 UHC Declaration as a priority area for action is welcome and timely. The Covid-19 pandemic further exacerbated challenges to health systems, and societies at large, resulting in a set back to the progress towards achieving UHC.  At the current pace, up to one-third of the world’s population will remain underserved by 2030, and trends in financial protection of out-of-pocket costs for patients are worsening.

The draft 2023 Political Declaration will be subject to deliberation by Member States in June, and the final Declaration is due to be adopted on 21 September at the second UN High-Level Meeting on UHC in New York.

ESMO has raised awareness with the World Health Organization and the UN of ESMO’s cancer resources that can help support countries in their efforts to deliver the three strands of Universal Health Coverage:

  1. The ‘ESMO Global Curriculum in Medical Oncology’ can support training the necessary workforce to ‘increase population coverage’.
  2. The evidence-based ‘ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines’ and ‘Pan-Asian Adapted Guidelines’ can support decisions to cost-effectively ‘expand essential health services’.
  3. The ‘ESMO-Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale’ can support countries to prioritize the use of cancer medicines to both improve health outcomes and ‘reduce the financial burden of health services’.

Together with WHO, ESMO has already assisted 5 WHO Member States deliver cost-effective cancer services in their Universal Health Coverage packages, and remains available to help others to do the same.

About Universal Health Coverage

  • Universal Health Coverage means that everyone, everywhere, should have access to the health services, when and wherever they need them, without risk of financial hardship. It includes the full range of essential health services, spanning health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.
  • Universal Health Coverage upholds the human right to health through the provision of affordable quality health services that leave no one behind.
  • Universal Health Coverage is key to achieving sustainable and resilient healthcare systems, including access to cancer services, and avoiding delays and disruptions in healthcare services during health emergencies and pandemics.
  • Achieving Universal Health Coverage was previously agreed by the UN in 2015 within the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals:
    Target 3.8 “Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services, and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”

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