ICN President urges governments to take immediate action to put plans to make Universal Health Coverage back on track

14 April 2023
ICN President Pamela Cipriano

The International Council of Nurses is calling on governments to take urgent action to protect, enlarge and re-energise the global nursing workforce so that Universal Health Coverage (UHC) can become a reality by the 2030 target date.

UHC2030 has launched From Commitment to Action, an action agenda that sets out the steps countries should take to make the urgent progress needed to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030. The plan was produced by an inclusive, multi-stakeholder Task Force and endorsed by the UHC2030 Steering Committee following public consultation. It will be presented to the United Nations High-level Meeting on UHC on September 22, 2023.

In the meantime, it will be used by UHC advocates ahead of and at the interactive multi-stakeholder hearings on health in May, and will be presented to the President of the UN General Assembly to inform the 2023 UHC political declaration. Advocacy for UHC does not stand alone but converges with corresponding efforts to coalesce political processes that will solidify actions to support the other UN high level meeting goals on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and on tuberculosis.

ICN President Dr Pamela Cipriano, who is a member of the UHC Task Force, said: “Universal Health Coverage will not be achieved by 2030 unless governments make urgent and strenuous efforts to follow this new action plan. This begins with heads of governments, together with other country level leaders, embedding UHC in their national health policy frameworks and budgets. Of critical importance is the vital need to support, grow and protect the global nursing and healthcare workforce. They are essential for rebuilding the strong and resilient health systems that are needed for health security. Strong, responsive and resilient systems have healthier people, which in turn, creates healthy economies and safe and secure societies.

‘Progress on UHC stalled during the pandemic so we face even greater urgency for action. What is at stake is far too important to be ignored and the future health and prosperity of us all are at risk. I urge nurses everywhere to use the Action Plan to lobby their politicians to do the right thing so that people everywhere can have access to essential health services without financial hardship.”

The Action Agenda reinforces findings from the pandemic that revealed the goals of UHC and global health security are intimately linked, and that one is not possible without the other. Protecting people everywhere in times of crisis and calm relies on strong health systems having enough well educated and equipped nurses and health workers.”

The Agenda includes a set of policy recommendations that countries should act on to “advance universal health coverage and health security, and deliver health for all by 2030.”

Action area four of the plan is about strengthening the healthcare workforce to ensure the resilience of healthcare services. Some believe the economic case has been made for investment in the health workforce, but ICN believes gains are slow or non-existent, and in some cases there is retrenchment. New strategies and norms will be required to garner the political will to secure these investments coupled with evidence of health gains.

Speaking at the WHO 5th Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, which discussed how best to support the healthcare workforce, Dr Cipriano said:

“We are very concerned about how we protect healthcare workers as a primary focus of the development of public policies so that we not only have resilient health workers, but resilient health systems.”

In a video message marking World Health Worker Week, Dr Cipriano called on governments and policy makers to invest in all health workers, including the world’s 28 million nurses, as one of the central solutions to achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030.

Download the communique here