G20 acknowledges the importance of health for sustainable development

The final declaration of the Health Ministerial Meeting proposes measures to tackle childhood obesity and calls for people-centred health systems. It also highlights the importance of addressing gender inequality in the sector.

The 2018 G20 Health Ministerial Meeting concluded this afternoon with a declaration on concrete health policy proposals.

Agreed today in Mar del Plata by delegates of G20 member and guest countries, the document considers health a key aspect for sustainable development and calls for strengthening health systems, always from a gender perspective.  It also recommends concrete actions to address global issues such as childhood overweight and obesity, antimicrobial resistance and countries’ preparedness to respond to epidemics, pandemics and disasters.

With respect to malnutrition, one of the priority issues of the Argentine G20 presidency, the declaration reads that it “threatens human health and development,” and has clear economic impacts. To reduce overweight and obesity in boys, girls and teenagers, health ministers and senior officials recommend improving “healthy food choices through intersectoral efforts.”

In this sense, the declaration promotes actions such as food reformulation and food and nutritional labelling, appropriate portion sizes and healthy lifestyles based on healthy diets.  

The document also advocates for strengthening health systems, key to ensuring “better access to safe, quality health care for the purpose of moving towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and reducing poverty by 2030 based on national context.”

Ministers and senior officials also underscore the importance of “people-centred care,” considered “key to increasing the quality of health care delivery systems.” They insist on the need for investments for the “ongoing training of health workforce.”

The document also contains a section on the role of women. “Actions should be made in order to bridge the persistent health gaps between women and men,” including “improved access to quality health care as well as more equitable health work force participation,” it reads. It also demands that “women are empowered to participate equally in health governance and decision-making processes.”

The responsiveness of health systems to crises and pandemics is another key issue in the declaration. “Health emergencies pose serious risks to global health, as well as economy, social stability and development, which cannot be addressed by one country, and require a coordinated global response,” it explains. The declaration suggests making “multi-sectoral preparedness efforts to build and sustain national capacities prior to an emergency.”

The document also emphasizes the work done on antimicrobial resistance by the G20 agriculture work stream and demands addressing the issue by means of a collaborative and cross-sectoral approach. Commitments are made to “increasing the level of awareness on the prudent and responsible use and disposal of antibiotics of all healthcare providers, veterinarians, farmers and food producers and of the general public.”