Partnering to achieve universal health coverage in Asia-Pacific

Published: 07, March 2019

On February 13th, the Presidents of Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)  convened a high-level meeting, in Tokyo, on achieving universal health coverage (UHC) in Asia and the Pacific. The meeting took place in the context of the upcoming G20 Summit in June, which for the first time will include a joint meeting between Ministers of Finance and Health.

The ADB-JICA meeting, attended by Health Ministers and other senior public health officials from 25 countries, the Global Fund, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and APLMA, allowed partners to share experiences on reaching UHC, addressing health emergencies and explore opportunities for innovative financing and partnerships.

UHC entails that all people have access to quality health care services and medicines, without putting them at risk of financial harm. The target for achieving UHC by 2030 is embedded in Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG), which also calls for malaria elimination.

At the meeting in Tokyo, UHC was defined as a pre-condition of human security and nation-building, ensuring sustainable and equitable economic growth, social stability and well-being. Under a principle of “Health by All, For All”, as outlined by Dr. Takao Toda, JICA’s Vice-President for Human Security and Global Health, every sector has a legitimate right and an obligation towards UHC. It was then acknowledged that the 2030 goal can only be reached through increased collaboration between a variety of stakeholders: development cooperation agencies, WHO, the Global Fund, GAVI, multilateral development banks, Ministries of Finance and Health, international and local NGOs.

Financing for health was recognized as one of the main challenges in realizing UHC. ADB’s President Mr. Nakao called for a financially sustainable health system, using innovations for wealth and health, including in the response to malaria. Throughout the discussions, domestic financing was identified as the primary revenue source for UHC, to be complemented and/or leveraged through innovative financing solutions. One such solution is blended financing where, for example, loans, grants and technical assistance are combined to fast-track the progress on the SDG agenda.

 In 2017, APLMA, ADB and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria entered into a partnership – Blended Finance for Impact – to improve collaboration between health sector development partners and to expand country-led health financing efforts. In April 2018, the partners agreed to explore the establishment of an ADB-led Regional Health Fund. The Fund aims to respond to countries’ demands for structured blended finance through concessional loans, grants and innovative finance modalities, allowing national health priorities to be supported, on attractive terms, through health sector program and project financing.

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