As discussions of the post-2015 development agenda continue, leading economists have expressed concern about the deep structural crisis of rising social inequality and the dangers of seeing more and more of the world’s wealth and opportunities concentrated in a shrinking number of privileged hands. I agree. I also regard universal health coverage as one of the most powerful social equalizers among all policy options. Countries such as Japan, which introduced universal health coverage in 1961 under a struggling economy, did so in a deliberate effort to promote social cohesion and boost growth of the middle classes as the backbone of a democratic society.
In just the past three years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been approached by more than 80 countries seeking technical support in moving their health systems towards universal coverage. This trend gives me cause for great optimism: governments value a fair society where everyone has access to essential health care, no one is left behind, and no one pays for health with financial ruin.
I can remember the moment when I decided to take up the cause of campaigning against early and forced marriages. Shortly after I was appointed Canada’s Foreign Minister back in 2011, I travelled to Perth, Australia to take part in the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.