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Health System Strengthening

Health System Strengthening is what we do, UHC is what we want

Angela Merkel and Margaret Chan

The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, and in particular SDG3 which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, provide unprecedented opportunities for all countries to work together towards aching Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Recent health crises such as the Ebola and Zika outbreaks, as well as the escalating challenge of antibiotic resistance, have shown that an integrated and comprehensive is needed to build resilient and sustainable health systems.

What is Health Systems Strengthening?

According to the World Health Organization a health system consists of all organisations, people and actions whose primary intent it is to promote, restore or maintain health. They are crucial for fulfilling the human right to health and for sustainable progress towards universal health coverage (UHC). UHC is defined as the principle that all individuals and communities should have access to quality essential health services without suffering financial hardship.

Strengthening health systems is the key means to achieve UHC and requires long-term engagement. Health systems are influenced by actors at multiple levels, from local to global, both public and private. Improving their performance requires both technical and political know-how and profound knowledge of the local environment.

Rather than focusing on single components of health systems, or on the health sector in isolation, German development cooperation implements programmes which account for the interactions between system components and which also address the impact of other sectors, such as education or climate, on the performance of health systems. By using a multi-level approach,  German development cooperation supports the implementation of health systems strengthening measures in an integrated and systemic way, as well as in coordination with relevant national and international partners.

In this way, it can, for example, contribute to reforming policies on the national level and simultaneously facilitate their application at the local level through the delivery of relevant technical expertise. All intervention follow the principle that there is no one-size-fit all approach to health systems strengthening.

At the UN Summit on the 2030 agenda, the German chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel, and the WHO Director General, Dr Margaret Chan, launched the global initiative Healthy Systems – Healthy Lives to highlight the critical contribution that stronger health systems can make towards the achievement of UHC. From the start the aim was to build consensus – a Joint Vision - on what is needed to build stronger health systems around the world.

In May 2017, at a side event of the 70th World Health Assembly, the Joint Vision, to which more than 200 health actors from governments, NGOs, multilateral organisations and private foundations contributed, was launched.

In close consultation with its partners in the UHC2030 network, and always guided by the Joint Vision, Germany is committed to continuing its support for ‘Healthy Systems for UHC’.

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