Alert – Disability-inclusion in the Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage

Posted by: on Sep 27, 2019 | No Comments

At the UN General Assembly, on 23rd September, UN Member States adopted a Political Declaration to accelerate efforts towards universal health coverage (UHC).

At a glance

Disability-inclusion and rehabilitation have a place in this Declaration and they are recognized as essential elements to move towards the realization of universal health coverage, set in the Sustainable Development Goal’s target 3.8 (which is, not surprisingly, off-track).

The official statement on the behalf of the International Disability and Development Consortium (of which Humanity & Inclusion is member) submitted for this high-level meeting, calls for the implementation of concrete steps in order to translate the principles of the Political Declaration in reality for persons with disabilities and vulnerable groups.

Why is universal health coverage important?

Universal health coverage means ensuring that all people have access to quality health services that they need without being exposed to financial hardship.

Persons with disabilities often encounter barriers to accessing health services, including significant financial barriers. Persons with disabilities have a 50% higher risk, compared to persons without disabilities, of facing catastrophic healthcare costs.  Health insurance is a common mechanism for decreasing financial barriers to health services, yet persons with disabilities often face barriers accessing private health insurance schemes, including lack of accessible information and discriminatory policies due to pre-existing conditions.

As countries work towards achieving universal health coverage, it is important that no one is left behind and that persons with disabilities are included in UHC policy and programming. We need to ensure that everyone receives, without financial hardships, effective and quality health services according to their needs, including rehabilitation services and assistive products.

©Corentin Fohlen/HI

Christella (14) who got a prothesis from HI after the earthquake. Her mother will start a business thanks to HI. ©Corentin Fohlen/HI

What is in the Political Declaration?

The Political Declaration integrates disability-inclusion and rehabilitation in universal health coverage, marking a progress in comparison with the Declaration of Astana on Primary Health Care (adopted one year ago), where disability was sadly absent.

The Political Declaration on UHC recognises that universal health coverage applies to essential health services across promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care and sets commitments to:

  • Increase access to health services for all persons with disabilities, by removing physical, attitudinal, social, structural, and financial barriers;
  • Train health workers around the specific needs of women, children and persons with disabilities;
  • Strengthen health information systems by collecting disaggregated data (by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability);
  • Implement people-centred, gender- and disability responsive intervention;
  • Improve availability, affordability and efficiency of assistive products.

Safeguard universal health coverage in emergencies, mental health, HIV/AIDS and NCDs (topics relevant for the work of HI) are also prominent subjects of commitment, in this Declaration.

Therefore, the Political Declaration on UHC can serve as a tool to reinforce Humanity & Inclusion’s and its partners’ arguments and to hold stakeholders accountable vis-à-vis their commitments, at the local, national and international levels.

What should be ensured?

The text reaffirms the primary role and responsibility of governments to determine their own path towards achieving UHC. In this regard, it should be recognized that States walk at different paces towards this goal, with different levels of political will and different resources to make it happen. Financial and technical support, including the support offered by WHO and other related institutions, are particularly needed in certain contexts and – first and foremost – for the most vulnerable groups. Indeed, the commitment to progressively cover one billion additional people by 2023 comes together with the commitment to reach first those who are left furthest behind.

Following contentious negotiations, the reference to sexual and reproductive health and rights was removed from the Declaration. However, they remain of pivotal importance and should not be neglected in order to achieve truly inclusive health systems. Vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, still face major obstacles to access sexual and reproductive services and to exercise their rights.