MANILA, PHILIPPINES (17 September 2020) — More than 40 finance and health ministers and deputy ministers from across Asia and the Pacific stressed the importance of universal health coverage (UHC) and the need for stronger collaboration to mobilize healthcare financing during the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Governors. 

At the Joint Ministers of Finance and Health Symposium on Universal Health Coverage in Asia and the Pacific: COVID-19 and Beyond, held virtually today, ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa affirmed ADB’s support for UHC as 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—even in aging societies that many countries in Asia and the Pacific are heading toward,” Mr. 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."

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.”

ADB, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Government of Japan jointly organized the symposium for health and finance leaders, as well as other experts from Asia and the Pacific, to outline concrete actions that build on UHC commitments at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Osaka in June 2019 and at the United Nations’ High-Level meeting in New York in September 2019.

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 Viet Nam today shared lessons and successful strategies from responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, while discussing 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 has exposed significant gaps in preparedness and response capacities, as well as the link between health security and economic stability.

To help meet these gaps, under Strategy 2030 ADB has committed to support the efforts of its developing members to pursue and achieve UHC by providing technical advice and increasing the share of health operations to 3%-5% of total commitments from the 2019 share of 2.66%.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region. 

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