Tamara Schudel, VP & Head of Global Policy, Roche Pharmaceuticals
Joanna Sickler, VP & Head of Health Policy & External Affairs, Roche Diagnostics

The world is off track to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030 but with the right commitment, much progress can still be made

The 19th century American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, famously wrote that, "The first wealth is health”, demonstrating how fundamental health is to people, society and the economy.

During the 2023 UN General Assembly, three high level meetings (HLMs) took place on health where his point was front of mind. This included a HLM on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), where the UN affirmed its commitment to UHC and to strengthen and accelerate its initial measures with a set of concrete and “action-oriented” policy proposals.

As a global health community, we are at a pivotal moment on the journey towards UHC. An estimate from the WHO in 2021 found that the world is significantly “off track” to reach thetarget on UHC. Therefore, what we do now will determine whether we can come close to meeting the SDGs by 2030 and whether we can bring better health outcomes to millions of more people around the globe.

At Roche, our workforce has a deep sense of urgency and responsibility to do our part to contribute to expanding UHC. We are actively engaged and partnering with governments, NGOs and supranational organisations at the country, regional and global levels to support the development of sustainable policies and actions for UHC.

SDG Target 3.4

By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.

SDG Target 3.8

Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all

As a global healthcare company working in innovative therapeutics and diagnostics - and a member of the UHC2030 Private Sector Constituency - our responsibility to support the SDGs for health is clear. 

While there are many facets to achieving UHC,we believe that two components in particular play a critical role: ensuring patients receive early screening, diagnosis and access to treatment; and implementing sustainable funding and financing solutions, especially for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) where the need is greatest and growing.

We know that healthy societies are pivotal to healthy economies - something that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated clearly. UHC is an investment, not a cost; it helps build stable economies and strong societies and is fundamental to addressing inequalities in access to quality care. To advance UHC and to support resilient healthcare systems, both high income and low and middle income countries must focus on mobilising sustainable financial resources for health.

Roche is actively engaged in this agenda in a number of ways, including through supporting sustainable, inclusive insurance initiatives that increase underserved populations’ financial protection. One example is thean initiative where we led a private-sector coalition with the support of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC). 

In the case of diagnostics, we work with major funders like the Global Fund and the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to encourage policies that leverage existing investments, such as utilising available diagnostic instruments for additional disease areas. This ensures that we are using existing resources more effectively.

Timely and equitable access to early screening, diagnosis and to treatment are essential in driving best health outcomes and the best use of healthcare resources, covering both infectious diseases and NCDs. As a company we are actively working with partners to understand access challenges to diagnostics and medicines and to put in place solutions to overcome them. 

In 2023, we announced the expansion of a collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to strengthen laboratory capabilities in countries significantly affected by the HIV and tuberculosis (TB) epidemics. The collaboration seeks to improve HIV and TB prevention, detection and treatment outcomes in countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Western Hemisphere. We also support policies and regulations that directly or indirectly support these efforts. For example, the WHO Resolution on Strengthening Diagnostics capacity, which supports Member States to strengthen their laboratory networks and adopt national diagnostics strategies, will contribute to achieving UHC.

For many years we have been committed to expanding access to standards of care through health systems shaping, and ensuring long term sustainability to provide access to prevention, detection, and treatment. For example, we supportan initiative that supports cities around the world to improve access to quality, equitable cancer care.

UHC is critical to advancing global public health and improving outcomes for patients of today and tomorrow. We know that there are many challenges that governments around the world face when it comes to achieving UHC and with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic turmoil the world has faced in recent years, the task has become even more difficult. But the human and economic costs of failing to improve health outcomes will be even more significant.

We stand ready to work with partners around the world, whether it is on finding sustainable financing solutions; helping to put in place programmes for early screening, diagnosis and treatments; or any number of other tasks. We are only one company but we have the same goal as the broader global health community and we are open to working together to try and achieve UHC for all.

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