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#WalkTogether for Health for All: bringing the global debate to the US

Joining policymakers, health professionals and civil society partners on 8 November in New York, Ban Ki-moon and Gro Brundtland called for courageous political leadership to ensure that when it comes to health coverage, no American is left behind.

On 8 November, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Ban Ki-moon launched the next focus of the #WalkTogether campaign, Walk to Health, at the Bellevue Hospital in New York.

The historic gathering of policymakers, healthcare professionals and civil society marked the first time the global campaign for Universal Health Coverage engaged with the US health debate.

Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and the newest member of The Elders opened the event by stating the case for Universal Health Coverage and the link to achieving the Health Sustainable Development Goal globally.

Ban Ki-Moon #WalkTogether
Ban Ki-Moon opened the event (Credit: Andrew Seng/The Elders)

He reiterated the universality of the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed during his tenure at the helm of the United Nations, highlighting that they apply equally to developed nations including the United States as well as developing nations.

Turning to the state of healthcare in the US, Ban Ki-moon expressed astonishment at the disparity between the high costs of healthcare and relatively poorer health outcomes when compared to other nations of the world. He also expressed his sadness that survivors of tragic mass shootings had fallen into potential bankruptcy because they cannot afford their hospital and recovery bills.

Attributing this situation to the way in which financing has been arranged, he implored courageous political leadership to confront the vested interests who would benefit from maintaining the status quo, to deliver Health for All for all Americans.

"With 60% of Americans now calling for a publicly financed health system, now is the time for these political leaders to act."

The event progressed to focus on the role of individual States in implementing policies aimed to achieve Universal Health Coverage.

Gustavo Rivera, Richard Gottfried and Dr David Oshinsky
Gustavo Rivera, Richard Gottfried and Dr David Oshinsky (Credit: Andrew Seng/The Elders)

The architects of the forthcoming New York State Health Act, State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Chair of the New York Assembly Committee on Health Richard Gottfried framed the implementation pathway for delivering the ambition to achieve health for all.

The discussion was moderated by Director of the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU Dr David Oshinsky.

Bringing together the global conversation about the role of Community Health Workers with their role at the local level, an enlightened conversation between CEO of Last Mile Health Raj Panjabi, and CEO of City Health Works Manmeet Kaur showed how a systemic approach to delivering Universal Health Coverage saves lives and enhances communities.

Raj Panjabi and Manmeet Kaur
Bryan Walsh, Manmeet Kaur and Raj Panjabi (Credit: Andrew Seng/The Elders)

In closing the event, Gro Brundtland noted the historic nature of the gathering, and called on the global health community to WalkTogether with health activists in the US.

Gro Brundtland who alongside Elder Emeritus Jimmy Carter  denounced the lack of health coverage in the US as “a national scandal” earlier in the day, highlighted the mismatch between the developed state of America and lack of health coverage for its people. She also praised the leadership of successive US Presidents, from Truman to Obama, for their efforts to expand health coverage and called for leadership and political commitment to achieve Health for All.

Gro Brundtland #WalkTogether
Gro Brundtland closed the event (Credit: Andrew Seng/The Elders)

Acknowledging the existence of powerful vested interests, Gro Brundtland warned against allowing them to regain the initiative and welcomed State-level attempts particularly by California, New York, Ohio, Colorado, and Vermont and urged other States to follow their lead to ensure that when it comes to health, no American shall be left behind.

Our work | Universal Health Coverage

Universal Health Coverage

Universal Health Coverage means everyone receives the health care they need without suffering financial hardship. We believe this is a goal all countries can reach.

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