Strengthening health systems

Universal health coverage

Almost 100 million people fall into poverty each year due to direct health costs. During the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio in 2012, social protection was recognized as a key factor in enhancing social cohesion for sustainable development. The international community today agrees that universal health coverage is an essential tool in strengthening health systems and facilitating access for all to quality health services, with no risk of impoverishment.

According to definition of the World Health Organization (OMS), universal health coverage ensures that all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them.

On behalf of the “Diplomacy & Health” group, France presented a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly on universal health coverage, which was adopted by consensus in December 2012. It promotes the idea that universal health coverage is an all-encompassing goal, capable of including all health care goals in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. By focusing on access for all to quality health care, it provides the cross-cutting aspect that was lacking in the Millennium Development Goals. By favoring more sustainable financing of health care systems, it provides them with the ability to use vertical investment as efficiently as possible, particularly in terms of mother and child health, fighting major pandemics and immunization. The effectiveness demonstrated by universal health care systems in countering poverty makes this topic a sustainable development goal, with both an economic and a global impact.

France shares its expertise

In 2005, the creation of the French Public Interest Group on Health and Social Protection in the International Arena (GIP SPSI), allowed developing countries to benefit from French expertise targeting health and social protection issues.

France also supports the promotion of health and social protection in developing countries through the “Providing For Health” (P4H) partnership, founded in 2007 by France and Germany. This network, which brings together multilateral agencies and bilateral partners, provides support for countries who so wish in defining and implementing health insurance mechanisms by providing technical expertise and by ensuring coordination between technical and financial partners.

Lastly, The Solidarity – Health (Santé) – Sahel (I3S) initiative aims to promote access to health care for children in the Sahel. In the six countries concerned (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad), I3S finances the launch of and support for primary health care payment exemption schemes for children aged 0 to 5.

Research and Development

Only 10% of the amount invested in health RD is earmarked for poverty-related diseases, which account for 90% of the global burden of morbidity (healthy life years lost). In the past ten years, less than 2% of all new molecules placed on the market concerned neglected tropical diseases.

In order to bridge the gap in health RD at global level, France supports innovative approaches in coordination and financing. It supports the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property. It has contributed to the establishment of the Global Health RD Observatory, hosted by WHO, to better map out the needs and flows of financing for health RD. Partnerships with the private sector are a vital component in developing new treatment. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), which associates the pharmaceutical industry and civil society, allows to separate RD costs from the price of health products, particularly through open approaches in innovation.

Committing to quality medicines and fighting counterfeit medicines

The counterfeiting of medicines could represent up to 10% of all medicines distributed globally and almost half of health products sold on the Internet. The quality of medicines, whether brands or generics, is a key element in France’s international cooperation strategy in the field of health. French expertise is recognized through the French National Agency for the Safety of Pharmaceuticals and Health Products (ANSM) and the National Order of Pharmacists, both of which also work at global level, especially in French-speaking countries.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development and its operators support pharmaceutical policies in developing countries, by financing projects and providing technical expertise. One of the actors in French-speaking countries is Réseau Médicaments et Développement – Network for Medicine and Development (ReMeD), an international solidarity association working to improve the accessibility, availability and quality of medicines in developing countries.

France is focusing its strategy on three main areas: advocacy, prevention and repression. It advocates in particular for the signature of the Council of Europe’s MEDICRIME Convention, that steps up sanctions against those who produce, distribute and market counterfeit medicines and health products.

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May 2014