The Task Force at the 78th United Nations General Assembly

President of UNGA 78 H.E. Mr. Dennis Francis. Photo courtesy of Lynn Heinisch.

Task Force for Global Health experts participated in events focused on pandemic preparedness, prevention and response; the Sustainable Development Goals; and universal health coverage during the 78th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York from September 18 to September 22. Heads of state, policymakers, and leaders from business and civil society gathered for decisions centered on the theme “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.”

The Task Force has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, which enables The Task Force to attend the general debate. Working with more than 150 countries to strengthen health systems, The Task Force was deeply involved in global, national and local efforts during the pandemic, seeing first-hand what worked well and what didn’t, and will bring that perspective to the discussions. 

This experience – which included supporting epidemiologists responding to outbreaks, informing vaccine safety protocols, helping 35 low- and middle-income countries roll out COVID vaccines, delivering essential supplies, and more – underpins The Task Force’s convictions about what UN member states need to do to prepare for and respond to future pandemics.

On September 22, The Task Force’s Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination (CGHE) hosted two events related to their role as Secretariat to the U.N. Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis, a group of more than 30 participating countries, which was launched last September during the U.N.’s 77th Assembly. “Strengthening Political Commitment and Putting Hepatitis Elimination on the Global Health Agenda” is a general meeting for the Group of Friends which was followed by “Eliminating Mother-to-Child Transmission of Hepatitis B through Integration with Universal Health Coverage 2030.” 

On September 21, 2023, The Task Force’s Partnership for International Vaccine Initiatives (PIVI) debuted a new video highlighting the importance of building and maintaining vaccine delivery systems called “Keeping Our Edge” at the DEVEX@UNGA 78 event.  

Regarding key topics at UNGA:

Pandemic Prevention Preparedness and Response (PPPR): The Task Force joins with peers and allies, such as the Pandemic Action Network, in endorsing the recommendations of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, specifically that “all governments in countries of every income level need to apply these lessons by investing in prevention and preparedness now to be ready across all sectors to respond to the next crisis.” For example: a new pandemic agreement and revised International Health Regulations should focus on surveillance and alert systems; sustainable funding plans for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response financing should be advanced and each country commit to mobilize additional, long-term domestic financing as their economies grow; and countries must establish an integrated and globally networked disease surveillance system — as called for by the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence — that allows for the collection, analysis, and sharing of disease data from around the world, in order to track the spread of diseases, identify potential outbreaks, and coordinate responses.

Universal Health Coverage: For more than 40 years, The Task Force for Global Health has been committed to building the systems necessary to protect the health of populations as well as eliminate diseases that have plagued humankind for centuries. We recognize that a strong healthcare system with universal access is inherently linked to the success of disease elimination. 

The Task Force endorses the Pandemic Action Network’s recommendations including:

  • Domestic and international investments must advance primary health care and Universal Health Coverage to improve delivery of health services in non-pandemic times
  • Countries must invest in improving both the quantity and quality of health workers to better prepare for and respond to future pandemics
  • Leaders should focus on the long-term domestic financing of health systems 

Day 1 – September 18

Task Force Chief External Relations Officer Lynn Heinisch thrilled to be at #SDGSummit #UNGA78! The Task Force focuses primarily on SDG3 (Health), but our work touches on several other SDGs, including SDG17 (Partnerships). Since our founding nearly 40 years ago, we have served as a trusted convener of diverse stakeholders to find solutions to some of the world’s toughest health problems.

Day 2 – September 19

Dr. Joseph Bresee, Director of the The Task Force’s Respiratory Virus Prevention programs, and Dr. Silvia Bino, head of the Control of Infectious Diseases Department at the Institute of Public Health in Tirana, Albania co-wrote an opinion piece on Devex, “Vaccinating health workers builds crucial vaccine systems”. The piece focuses on building and strengthening vaccination programs for health workers as it not only protects from infection, but also creates robust vaccination systems for efficient vaccine delivery during pandemics. Dr. Joe Bresee participated in the Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPPR) High-Level Meeting on September 20th.

Day 4 – September 21

The Task Force’s Partnership for International Vaccine Initiatives premiered the video “Keeping our edge” which focuses on the importance of having an effective vaccine delivery systems at the Devex UNGA78 summit. See video below.

Dr. John Ward, Director of The Task Force’s Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination attends Universal Health Coverage (UHC) High-Level Meeting at UNGA 78! The declaration on UHC mentioned hepatitis explicitly in two places:

  • 19.e: Progress on communicable diseases remains off track, with an estimated
    1.3 million new HIV infections in 2022; an estimated 1.6 million deaths from
    TB and a rise in the TB incidence rate by 3.6 per cent between 2020 and 2021;
    247 million malaria cases globally; 1.65 billion people still requiring treatment
    and care for neglected tropical diseases; and viral hepatitis is among the leading
    causes of mortality worldwide with 3 million new hepatitis infections and
    over 1.1 million deaths from hepatitis-related illnesses every year;
  • 55.a: Strengthen efforts to address the specific physical and mental health needs of all people as part of universal health coverage, building on commitments made in 2019, by advancing comprehensive approaches and integrated service delivery and striving to ensure that challenges are addressed and the achievements are sustained and expanded, including for: a) HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis, malaria, polio, hepatitis, neglected tropical diseases including dengue, cholera, and other emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases; 

Day 5- September 22

The Task Force’s Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination convened two events to advance political will for hepatitis prevention, care and treatment at the 2nd Annual UN Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis. More on what happened on at the event here. 

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