A step closer towards universal health coverage for an ageing world



Camilla Williamson

On 23 September HelpAge attended the High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) at the United Nations, New York.

UHC is essential for ensuring all people, everywhere, can access quality health and care services with financial protection. At the meeting and in the months leading up to it, we have heard countless examples of how affordable, accessible, quality health and care services unlock people’s potential and how UHC is therefore one of the smartest investments countries can make.

Older people face specific barriers to accessing health and care services. Often the lack of accessibility to services or the high cost of medicines for conditions that are common in older age prevent older people from receiving treatment. Other barriers include the lack of training amongst health workers on challenges that are common in older age, and ageist attitudes that exclude older people from services and deny their right to health.


Glandford, An older person in Jamaica told us, “Some of us have done a lot for society and yet we are not getting anything back. Instead, we are abused at health centres and some of the doctors don’t give us the service they should. We need better quality healthcare all round, both the medication and the service.”

In recent months, the HelpAge network and partner organisations have been campaigning to ensure heads of state commit to UHC and to older people’s inclusion in efforts to achieve it. We are very pleased that, thanks to our joint efforts, the Political Declaration adopted at the meeting contains the strong commitments related to older people that we campaigned for!

You can read HelpAge’s response to the Political Declaration here.

Leaders around the world have welcomed the declaration as a landmark for global health and development, containing the most comprehensive set of health commitments ever adopted at this level. The inclusion of older people within it is a significant achievement and the document will be a key advocacy tool for us all to ensure governments finance and implement models of UHC that are fit for an ageing world.


What’s next?

Following the High-Level Meeting, HelpAge is committed to working with network members and partners at national level to ensure governments live up to their commitments and implement models of UHC that are inclusive of older people.We will continue to urge governments to:

• Increase domestic spending on health so that a comprehensive package of health and care services can be provided that adequately respond to the needs of a rapidly ageing population.

• Invest in age-inclusive UHC and the building blocks needed to deliver this.

• Ensure the inter-linkages of older age, gender and disability are recognised and responded to.

We will also be working to ensure older people are not left behind within the design of accountability mechanisms to monitor the implementation of UHC now taking place. In particular, upper age-caps which limit data capture on the health and care needs of older people must be removed and the SDGs’ commitment to age, gender and disability disaggregated data must be upheld.

Download our infographic, which gives four ways to end the denial of older people’s right to health here.

Thank you for your support in ensuring UHC is fit for an ageing world.