Finance, health officials support UHC

Finance and health officials from across Asia and the Pacific stressed the importance of universal health coverage (UHC) and the need for stronger collaboration to mobilize healthcare financing, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

At the joint ministers of finance and health symposium on UHC in Asian and the Pacific, Masatsugu Asakawa, ADB president, affirmed their support for free health services, noting it is a foundation of strong health systems.

"We have to build health systems where people from all walks of life, including the elderly, the poor, and the vulnerable, can access health services at an affordable cost while maintaining these health systems' financial sustainability,” Asakawa said.

“In this regard, close collaboration between finance and health ministers is crucial for our member economies to provide cost-effective, inclusive, and high-quality health interventions, underpinned by sustainable finance,” he added.

In an opening video message, Japan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Taro Aso said, “We will strengthen our collaboration with ADB, expecting that ADB, as the regional family doctor, would uncover the assistance needs of the region and play a leading role in promoting UHC.”

Each year, the cost of healthcare drives tens of millions of people in Asia and the Pacific into poverty. 

During the pandemic, countries that have achieved UHC, or are close to it, have been able to mobilize critical disease prevention and control measures, such as risk communication, testing, contact tracing, and isolation.

Ministers of Finance and Ministers of Health from Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam shared lessons and successful strategies from responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They also discussed the role of UHC in increasing resilience to health and economic shocks.

Over the past 50 years, countries in Asia and the Pacific have made great strides in improving population health. Despite this, COVID-19 exposed significant gaps in preparedness and response capacities, as well as the link between health security and economic stability.