Dr Eimear Duff, medical doctor and senior researcher at the G7 Research Group, discusses the prospects for G7 Biarritz on health. With the upcoming 2019 UN High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in September, and the Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund in October, the Biarritz Summit is a crucial opportunity to achieve political commitment to global health goals. The impact of climate change on health is also a pressing issue, particularly in midst of the Amazon fire crisis. Will the leaders respond?
Health first came to the forefront of G7/8 summits at the French-hosted summit in Lyon in 1996. More than two decades later, it remains at the fore of the G7 agenda. The Biarritz Summit is a key opportunity to gather momentum for the replenishment of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a partnership created at the G8 Summit in Genoa in 2001. This has already had a promising start, with Canada committing to a 15.7% increase in its pledge, bringing its contribution for 2020–22 to $930.4 million. The EU quickly followed, announcing a record €550 million contribution to the partnership. Alongside combating the major pandemics in a vertical approach, progress toward Universal Health Coverage is a crucial G7 objective. Dr Tedros, director-general of the World Health Organization said that “disease-specific programmes…must be built on the foundation of integrated and people-centred health systems”.
UHC is defined by the World Health Organization as ensuring that “communities receive the quality services they need, and are protected from health threats, without financial hardship”. Past official statements and annexes released by the G7/8 leaders from 1975 to 2018 devoted 7,058 words to UHC and its key component of Primary Health Care. Between 2006 and 2017, four G7/8 pre-meetings of health ministers governance took place. They made sixteen specific commitments on UHC and primary healthcare, constituting 8% of their total health commitments. The number of commitments peaked in 2016. This is appropriate in view of 2016 being the inaugural year of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which UHC is a prominent part of the third Sustainable Development Goal.
For its G7 2019 presidency, France has demonstrated its commitment to strengthening primary health care. Its three priority areas are: combating unequal access; elimination of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; and improving health systems through sharing best practices. In preparation for the G7 Biarritz Summit, the G7 Health Ministers’ Declaration in May devoted three of thirteen commitments to UHC. They committed to promoting the “mobilisation and coordination of the entire international community… to improve primary health care as a lever for fighting health inequalities”.
In view of the upcoming United Nations High Level Meeting on UHC on September 23 in New York, there is a need for more inclusive, evidence-based and sustainable G7 cooperation in health for all, including on strengthening primary health care for achieving UHC. The UN High-Level Meeting on UHC set its theme as ‘Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World’. This meeting will be the last opportunity before the mid-point of the SDGs in 2023 for leaders to galvanise their support for UHC. Leaders at Biarritz should signal their commitment to bolstering investments in UHC for inclusive, sustainable healthcare.
The direct effects of climate change include heatwaves, flooding, air pollution and water scarcity. In addition, there are many indirect effects, such as population displacement, conflict and loss of livelihood. The health of the planet and the health of populations are interdependent. Leaders are already preparing to use the Biarritz G7 summit to react to the extremely acute international crisis of the burning Amazon rainforest. The smoke from the Amazon fires is already harming the health of people as far away as São Paulo. In light of these interconnected issues, on which human health depends, the G7 may provide an opportunity for leaders to recognise the links among the SDGs, and thus work to produce co-benefits for health and climate change control.
One hopes that climate and health will be ambitiously addressed under the French presidency of the G7. As a key example of issues to be considered, in 2017, five commitments were made regarding indoor air pollution. No health-related commitments have been made to date about outdoor air pollution, which is responsible for 4.2 million deaths annually. The Lancet has pronounced “tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”. Will the G7 Biarritz summit leaders respond?