G20 leaders commit to combating international health challenges

11 Jul 2017

A joint communiqué from world leaders at the G20 summit has reinforced the importance of safeguarding against health crises and strengthening health systems to the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. 

"The G20 has a crucial role in advancing preparedness and responsiveness against global health challenges," the communiqué states. "We recall universal health coverage is a goal adopted in the 2030 Agenda and recognize that strong health systems are important to effectively address health crises. We call on the UN to keep global health high on the political agenda and we strive for cooperative action to strengthen health systems worldwide, including through developing the health workforce... We advocate for sufficient and sustainable funding to strengthen global health capacities, including for rapid financing mechanisms and the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program."

The G20's inclusion of international health challenges follows an open letter from the G20 Global Health Coalition, which called on the G20 world leaders to prioritize health and establish the G20 as a permanent global health policy forum.

The Coalition also thanked G20 leaders and Chancellor Angela Merkel for placing global health successfully on the G20 agenda alongside the pressing issues within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including, the world economy, trade and investment, employment, migration, strengthening the international financial architecture, climate and energy.

We call on the UN to keep global health high on the political agenda and we strive for cooperative action to strengthen health systems worldwide

However, despite the G20's commitment to health system strengthening and universal health coverage, the communiqué does not propose action to accelerate the elimination of neglected tropical diseases, which affect over one billion people and place a significant burden on developing economies.

"The International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) welcomes the G20's recognition of universal health coverage and support for health system strengthening in its communiqué," said ICTC Chair, Serge Resnikoff. “However, we regret that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) were not specifically mentioned. NTDs such as trachoma exacerbate poverty and tackling them is essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Programs to tackle trachoma and other NTDs reach those most at risk of not accessing health services, often taking that first vital step to ensure no one is left behind. While we look forward to accelerating progress thanks to the G20’s support for these goals, we hope to see future G20 communiqués recognize the importance of tackling NTDs."

The 2017 G20 summit was the 12th meeting of the Group of Twenty and was held in Hamburg Germany on 7–8 July 2017. The 2018 G20 summit will be hosted by Argentina in Buenos Aires.