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Prospects for G7 Health Performance at Biarritz

Eimear Duff, Senior Researcher, G7 Research Group
August 25, 2019

Health first came to the forefront of G7/8 summits at the French-hosted summit in Lyon in 1996. Over two decades later, it remains at the fore of the G7 agenda. The Biarritz Summit is a key opportunity to gather momentum for the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a partnership created at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. This has already had a promising start, with Canada committing to a 15.7% increase in its pledge, bringing its contribution for 2020–2022 to $930.4 million. The European Union quickly followed, announcing a record €550 million contribution to the partnership. Alongside combating the major pandemics in a vertical approach, progress toward universal health coverage (UHC) is a crucial G7 objective. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that "disease-specific programmes … must be built on the foundation of integrated and people-centred health systems."

UHC is defined by the World Health Organization as ensuring that "communities receive the quality services they need, and are protected from health threats, without financial hardship." Past official statements and annexes released by the G7/8 leaders from 1975 to 2018 devoted 7,058 words to UHC and its key component of primary health care. Between 2006 and 2017, four pre-summit meetings of health ministers took place. They made 25 specific commitments on UHC, health systems and primary health care, constituting 13% of their total health commitments. The number of commitments peaked in 2016. This is appropriate in view of 2016 being the inaugural year of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which UHC is a prominent part of the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

For its G7 2019 presidency, France has demonstrated its commitment to strengthening primary health care. Its three priority areas are combating unequal access; elimination of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; and improving health systems through sharing best practices. In preparation for the G7 Biarritz Summit, the G7 health ministers' declaration in May devoted three of 13 commitments to UHC. They committed to promoting the "mobilization and coordination of the entire international community … to improve primary health care as a lever for fighting health inequalities."

In view of the upcoming United Nations High Level Meeting on UHC on September 23 in New York, there is a need for more inclusive, evidence-based and sustainable G7 cooperation in health for all, including on strengthening primary health care for achieving UHC. The UN High-Level Meeting on UHC set its theme as "Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World." This meeting will be the last opportunity before the midpoint of the SDGs in 2023 for leaders to galvanize their support for UHC. Leaders at Biarritz should signal their commitment to bolstering investments in UHC for inclusive, sustainable health care.

The direct effects of climate change include heatwaves, flooding, air pollution and water scarcity. In addition, there are many indirect effects, such as population displacement, conflict and loss of livelihood. The health of the planet and the health of populations are interdependent. Leaders are already preparing to use the Biarritz G7 to react to the extremely acute international crisis of the burning Amazon rainforest. The smoke from the Amazon fires is already harming the health of people as far away as São Paulo. In light of these interconnected issues, on which human health depends, the G7 may provide an opportunity for leaders to recognize the links among the SDGs, and thus work to produce co-benefits for health and climate change control.

One hopes that climate and health will be ambitiously addressed under the French presidency of the G7. As a key example of issues to be considered, in 2017, five commitments were made regarding indoor air pollution. No health-related commitments have been made to date about outdoor air pollution, which is responsible for 4.2 million deaths annually. The Lancet has pronounced "tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century." Will the G7 Biarritz Summit leaders respond?

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Eimear DuffEimear Duff graduated from medicine in Trinity College Dublin in 2017 with first class honours and Professors' Gold Medals in Medicine and Pediatrics, and works as a medical doctor at St. James's Hospital, Dublin. She has completed an MBA at Trinity College Dublin and was a 2019 Young Global Changer at the G20 Global Solutions Summit. She has experience at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and is now a Saothar-Iveagh Fellow in international policy, supported by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

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