Health in the G20 agenda

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Medicine Cabinet
Teodoro B. Padilla

The Group of 20 (G20) economies, representing more than four-fifths of gross world product and two-thirds of the world’s population, concluded their meeting with the release of a Leaders’ Declaration endorsed in Hamburg, Germany.

The powerful bloc vowed international cooperation amongst themselves and with developing countries, with the goal of addressing major global economic issues and contributing to the overall well-being of citizens in an interconnected world.

The high-level meeting tackled global challenges aimed at building resilience, improving sustainability, and assuming responsibility.

These challenges include terrorism, displacement, poverty, hunger, job creation, climate change, energy security, and inequality.

A topic that took on great significance in the G20 agenda revolved around global health concerns. As recently discussed in this column in a two-part series, the Leaders’ Declaration recognized that antimicrobial resistance represents a growing threat to public health and economic growth.

In response, the G20 ministers agreed to promote access to affordable and quality antimicrobials, vaccines, and diagnostics, while preserving existing therapeutic options. The leaders also highlighted the need for research and development for priority pathogens and tuberculosis. They called for further research initiatives and product development through a new international R&D Collaboration Hub, and agreed to examine practical market incentive options.

Also under health is the call to safeguard against health crises and strengthening health systems. The G20 Leaders acknowledged that strong health systems are crucial to effectively avert and manage health crises.

With this, they asked the United Nations to ensure that global health remains high on the political agenda while countries cooperate to strengthen health systems through universal health coverage (UHC). The Leaders were referring to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), also known as the UN 2030 Agenda.

Goal 3 of the SDG sets an objective of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. It includes achieving UHC, focusing on financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services, and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defined UHC as when the people and communities are able to “use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.”

The UHC goal is the sum of three related concepts: health equity, quality in services, and financial protection.

The WHO explained that equity in access to health services means everyone who needs services should get them regardless of their ability to pay.

Quality of health services, on the other hand, is a reminder that good quality health services are important to improve the health of the people receiving them.

Finally, financial protection means that the cost of using these services must also not result in financial catastrophe for the patients and their families. The WHO estimates that 100 million people are pushed into poverty every year as a result of out-of-pocket expenditures on health services. UHC would help eliminate this impoverishment.

In a commentary, the WHO noted that most countries need to reduce reliance on private financing and instead move towards a system that is mostly funded from public sources. UHC should also focus on primary health care and meet the needs of vulnerable groups such as the poor, women, youth, disabled and the elderly. It added that “to reach everyone, essential health services need to be free at the point of delivery.”

Medicine Cabinet is a column of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), representing the research-based medicines and vaccines sector in the country. The author is the executive director of PHAP. E-mail the author at