This content was published in the period between 21 January 2019 and 8 July 2021

Speech from Lena Hallengren

Speech by Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren at the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly


Thank you, Madam/Mr President, for the opportunity to address the Assembly on the important agenda for achieving universal health coverage.

Sweden is a committed proponent of universal health coverage. We are very pleased that this issue has been accorded high priority by the Director-General and at this year's World Health Assembly.

The Swedish health system aims to ensure good health care on equal terms for the entire population, regardless of ability to pay. I am proud to say that we have come a long way towards universal health coverage in Sweden.

The UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in September will be an important occasion to advance this work - further action is essential to achieving worldwide universal health coverage.

The 2030 Agenda contains our jointly agreed sustainable development goals and targets. Target 3.8 is about achieving universal health coverage. But this target is not only key to improving the health of populations - it is also crucial to the implementation of the entire 2030 Agenda. Strong health systems, with universal coverage, are fundamental to achieving sustainable societies.

Substantial health gaps still exist today, both between and within countries. This is unacceptable. We must work together to ensure that these gaps are closed. One crucial step is meeting people's health care needs.

Primary health care is a cornerstone of all health systems. Effective primary care increases access to services, reduces avoidable hospital admissions and can also contribute to equitable population health. In Sweden, we are in the process of restructuring our health care system. One of the most important aims of this work is a strengthened primary care structure that provides integrated, people-centered health services, including preventive measures.

One of the most serious and pressing global health threats is antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Achieving universal health coverage is not possible without effective antibiotics. I look forward to the upcoming UN Secretary-General's report on AMR. But we have no time to lose; it is imperative that the IACG recommendations spur concrete action within countries and that the Tripartite agencies and UNEP step up their work on AMR, especially to support countries to implement their national action plans.

Essential to achieving universal health coverage is the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions that safeguard women's and girls' rights to their own bodies and lives. The provision of a comprehensive SRHR package of services benefits women, men, adolescents and children alike - and societies at large.

Sweden believes in a strong and effective multilateral system; the global challenges we face today require global solutions and multilateral cooperation. WHO has a very important role to play in this global system and we need to continue to support WHO's reform agenda to create a stronger and more effective organisation, and improve the conditions for providing support to countries.

I would also like to stress the need for effective financing of WHO. Sweden provides unearmarked core funding to the organisation as part of our overall strategy for more effective financing of the UN system. As a dedicated partner of WHO, we look forward to continuing the dialogue to enhance the predictability and flexibility of funding to the organisation.

Finally, let me end by saying that Sweden looks forward to working together to achieving universal health care for all. No one should be left behind.

Thank you.