Cover photo: Mandeep Dhaliwal, UNDP’s Director of HIV, Health and Development, and Cecilia Oh, Programme Advisor with UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Team, speak at a side meeting organized by the Access and Delivery Partnership at the Prince Mahidol Award Conference. Photo: UNDP.

Bangkok, Thailand – Achieving equitable, efficient and sustainable universal health coverage was the main agenda item this week as experts converged for a major global public health conference in Bangkok.

Public health experts from around the world participated in the Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) from 26-31 January 2016. PMAC is an annual conference convened by the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation along with the Thailand Ministry of Public Health, Mahidol University and other partners.

This year’s conference, with the theme of “Priority-setting for universal health coverage (UHC)”, is set within the context of the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Development, or Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs have cemented a fundamental interconnectedness of health and development. Health is an essential component of efforts to eradicate extreme poverty, promote economic growth and achieve sustainable and inclusive development. UHC is seen by many public health experts as a critical pathway to achieve SDG 3 – Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all.

UNDP organized two side meetings during the conference that contributed to the priority-setting efforts to achieve UHC. On 26 January 2016, a side meeting titled ‘Intersectoral governance and financing to UHC’ examined innovative strategies employed to build equitable, sustainable and resilient health systems.

“Achieving UHC will require more than just an increase in overall health financing. Critical too will be the promotion, documentation and better evaluation of how non-health sector financing can be leveraged to benefit health,” said Mandeep Dhaliwal, UNDP’s Director of HIV, Health and Development. “Efficiencies, effectiveness, synergies and innovation are critical for achieving UHC and for the SDGs more broadly.”

The meeting highlighted innovative approaches to intersectoral governance and financing efforts from around the world, such as those that have been implemented in Barbados, Malawi and the Philippines. Through these case studies and active discussions, the meeting highlighted the importance of evidence, rights-based approaches, and innovative thinking for operationalizing intersectoral engagement.

“Fully realizing the promise of UHC requires complementary action outside the health sector, especially when it comes to the social determinants of health,” said Doug Webb, UNDP’s Team Leader on Health and Innovative Financing. “These determinants include laws, policies, norms and governance arrangements that shape the social, economic and environmental conditions of daily life; conditions that, in turn, influence risk behaviours, access to health services and health outcomes. Achieving UHC means increasing demand and access to quality services, not just their provision.”

On 27 January 2016, the Access and Delivery Partnership (ADP) convened a side meeting for south-south knowledge sharing between focus countries on key successes and challenges related to capacity-building initiatives supported by the partnership.

Led by UNDP and supported by the Government of Japan, the ADP focuses on providing low- and middle-income countries with technical skills and expertise to develop, implement and institutionalize innovative systems and strategies required to effectively promote access to and delivery of new health technologies for tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases.

In opening remarks, Mandeep Dhaliwal noted: "The integrated approach of the ADP, and the unique partnerships that we have built, will make a meaningful contribution to meeting the targets of SDG3, as well as other SDGs more broadly.”

The side meeting featured specific case studies of good practices and promising strategies adopted in the ADP focus countries – Ghana, Indonesia and Tanzania – on issues across the value chain of access and delivery.

“The meeting provided a rare opportunity for our country partners to learn from each other, as well as build institutional linkages that are critical to sustained knowledge sharing and capacity building,” said Cecilia Oh, Programme Advisor with UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Team.

This article was originally posted on the UNDP-Asia Pacific site: