Opening Remarks of Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific at the First Regional Technical Advisory Group Meeting on Universal Health Coverage

12 December 2016 — Manila

Representatives from Member States and partner agencies,
Ms Chairperson and UHC TAG members,
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:

It is my great pleasure to open this landmark event for our Region – the first Technical Advisory Group or TAG meeting on Universal Health Coverage.

UHC is important in its own right. It is also a critical platform to achieve all health-related SDG targets beyond Goal 3.

WHO and Western Pacific Member States are committed to the advancement of Universal Health Coverage. All countries, no matter how rich or poor, can take steps to improve the quality of services, reduce gaps between need and use of services, and improve financial protection.

The UHC regional action framework — Universal Health Coverage: Moving Towards Better Health — was endorsed by the Regional Committee in 2015. The framework supports countries to tailor actions to accelerate UHC, based on their priorities and context as part of the national health policy and planning process.

This TAG was established to raise the profile of UHC, analyse country progress, advise on technical issues and make recommendations to advance UHC.

This meeting is a forum for the TAG to provide advice and support to countries. It also is an opportunity for countries to share experiences and lessons learnt.

Each year this meeting will have a special focus. This year we will examine governance and service delivery challenges in the Region.

Rapid economic growth has lifted people in many countries out of poverty and resulted in impressive health and development gains.

Meanwhile, disease patterns and population health needs are changing, as a result of ageing and the emergence of noncommunicable diseases. Countries face a double burden of disease.

Unfortunately economic growth does not automatically translate into more resources for health. Health sectors face pressure to contain escalating costs amid reductions in external funding in many countries.

Countries face many difficult questions:
— What is the role of government and how is this evolving?
— How should resources be used to achieve better health?
— What models of service delivery will best meet changing health needs in communities?
— How do we serve disadvantaged groups and hard-to-reach populations while improving the overall health system?

And there are no easy answers as countries identify priorities and progress towards UHC incrementally. Every country is different, and each country will find its own path to UHC.

However, there are lessons learnt that can benefit all. There are also some challenges that we can solve together.

In discussions over the next three days, I encourage TAG members to consider specific circumstances of each country and provide constructive and concrete options and advice.

For country representatives, please reflect on what is happening in your country and the challenges ahead. Listen to challenges other countries face. Try to work together, along with our distinguished TAG members and other advisers, to take a whole-of- system view and identify priorities for the way forward.

At the end of this meeting, country-specific recommendations and priorities will be developed, along with actions that should be taken — so that we can review progress when we convene next year.

In the meantime, I encourage you to take full advantage of this opportunity to learn from each other's experiences and expertise.

Working together, we can make UHC a reality.

Thank you.