It was my great pleasure and honour to host the second G20 health ministerial meeting in October.
The G20 agreed on the creation of the health working group in China in 2016, and the group first debated last year under the German presidency. Next year, Japan will host the third G20 health ministerial meeting.
It has been a very intense journey since our teams first met in Buenos Aires last March for the initial health working group, followed by the second meeting in May at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, and the third informal meeting in June at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. We reached the final meeting of discussions in Mar del Plata on 4 October.
We are proud to have had this opportunity to show our commitment to international cooperation, multilateralism and global governance. “Building consensus for fair and sustainable development” has been the theme of all the G20 working groups during the Argentinian presidency.
In our G20 health ministerial meeting we agreed on a joint declaration, in which we have recalled the commitments made in the 2017 Berlin Declaration of the G20 Health Ministers, and reaffirmed our continued role in strengthening political support to take forward this work. The G20 countries have renewed the commitments towards the health-related policies and goals agreed at the international level in the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
On the health agenda
This year, we have introduced childhood overweight and obesity in the G20 health agenda, understanding that this issue constitutes a major public health problem worldwide that is compromising the future of our children and adolescents. But there was also consensus on the fact that childhood overweight and obesity is relevant for not only health, but also for the social and economic consequences of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the development of countries. Each G20 country has developed different strategies to curb the obesity epidemic and agreed to continue exchanging good practices and working in collaboration with international organisations to counter its adverse impact on human capital and social development.
We support the strengthening of health systems to achieve better access to safe, quality healthcare and bring us closer to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and reduction of poverty by 2030.
We have agreed that primary healthcare has to be the basis of a people-centred model, which requires a trained and committed health workforce, as well as the use of innovative technology to improve access and quality of healthcare services. We have also recognised the importance of empowering people and health teams, establishing policies so that women can have the same working conditions as men to achieve equal participation in decision-making positions.
Regarding antimicrobial resistance (AMR), although the agreements reached in Germany were very positive, there is still much to be done. The G20 should lead the way in tackling AMR. To do so, we have to work together with key partners through multisectoral agreements and in collaboration with international organisations. Most countries are making progress in the process of implementing the national action plans in the framework of the One Health strategy. There was a strong agreement in the promotion of measures to raise awareness of the AMR problem among the population and health workers, as well as the need to encourage investment in technology and access to new diagnostic technologies.
Health emergencies pose serious risks to global health, as well as the economy, social stability and development, which cannot be addressed by one country – they require a coordinated global response. These threats could test our health systems. Past experiences have shown that global health challenges cannot be addressed by a single country or by the health sector alone. Instead, they require a comprehensive commitment to respond promptly and effectively. However, the health sector must show leadership and guide the required activities, as well as raise awareness of the risks and possible consequences.
Throughout all G20 groups, we have had a cross-cutting gender approach. Gender-responsive health systems and improving the health, rights and well-being of women and girls contributes to gender equality and to the empowerment of women as an effective way to reduce extreme poverty and build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world.
The G20 health ministerial meeting gave us an excellent opportunity to continue guiding global health policies. We look forward to continuing working together in Japan during 2019.