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Geneva, 20 May 2018 (PAHO/WHO) - Under the theme "raising awareness, mobilizing resources, and ensuring access to universal health coverage" to defeat noncommunicable diseases, the Commonwealth Health Ministers discussed possible actions they could collectively take in these areas.

At their annual meeting prior to the opening of the 71st World Health Assembly, the health authorities of the Commonwealth also discussed effective financing models for universal health care, including the mobilization of national resources, the effective use of contributions, and mechanisms for pooled procurement of health supplies and medicines. They also considered joint activities to do more to prevent cervical cancer in girls and women and provide a coordinated response to gender-based violence.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization(WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that although life-saving interventions do exist to address noncommunicable diseases, their implementation at the global level is still very slow. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals involved a shift in the battle against these diseases, since the global development agenda included a specific goal to reduce mortality from noncommunicable diseases and promote mental health. Although progress has been made, it has not been sufficient. He pointed out that the next United Nations High-Level Meeting, scheduled for September, will be a crucial opportunity to truly achieve greater political commitment to change things.

Dr. Tedros added that the best way to promote health, prevent diseases, and provide early diagnosis and treatment is to make investments that give all people access to the services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said that the health ministers meeting was an opportunity to take practical collective action on communicable diseases, access to universal health coverage, and pooled procurement of medical supplies, among other issues. Among potential joint activities, she suggested several attractive possibilities, such as working for a "100% smoke-free Commonwealth", and imposing sugar taxes.

Also in attendance was the political and human rights activist Graça Machel, who recently chaired WHO's Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. At the meeting, Machel referred to the broad range of experience and lessons on universal health coverage represented in the Commonwealth countries. She also said that standing up to powerful interest groups to establish equitable health financing policies involves a political battle that must be won to protect the poorest and most vulnerable populations.

During the 71st World Health Assembly, the Commonwealth countries will present a joint statement with the main decisions made at their meeting.

The Commonwealth Health Ministers meet annually one day prior to the start of the World Health Assembly to discuss issues of common interest. There are 13 countries from the Region of the Americas in the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 53 member states that are mostly former British colonies.


PAHO: 71st World Health Assembly 
Commonwealth Health Ministers meeting 2018