Dr Tedros stated this during the Social Good Summit in New York City, an annual event leading up the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the TIME reports.
“Universal health coverage should be [viewed] as a rights issue,” said Tedros during the panel interview. “Many families are getting into poverty because they are spending their savings for health care services.”
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The WHO defines universal health care as a health system that provides services to citizens without putting them at a financial risk. Today, an estimated 400 million people around the world lack access to one or more essential health services, and every year, 100 million people are pushed into poverty due to out-of-pocket health care expenses.
“Access to health services should not be a privilege; it should not be a luxury,” said Tedros during the Summit interview.
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Tedros gave five main reasons for why he is advocating for universal health coverage.
“People should not die because they are poor,” said Tedros. “It’s embarrassing to let them die when we have the means [to provide care.]” Tedros also called upon the audience to “Talk to your respective governments to come to their senses and to make this happen.”
Conversations about universal health coverage will continue throughout the UNGA. Tedros and other world leaders, including representatives from Japan, France, Thailand and Senegal, will meet to discuss how different countries are achieving universal health coverage.
“Your voice matters in this,” said Tedros to the audience on Sunday, adding that he looks forward to working with young people on the issue. “We can turn this into a movement.”