Medical students demand universal health coverage goal

Medical students worldwide called for universal health coverage to be a specific health goal within the post-2015 global development agenda, at the 63rd general assembly of the International Federation of Medical Students' Associations, or IFMSA, held in Hammamet, Tunisia, last month.

The Hammamet Declaration was agreed by associations representing 1.3 million medical students from 110 countries.

It said the Millennium Development Goals had led to "vast improvements in the quality of life of millions of people worldwide since 2000" and had tackled some of the world's major development issues.

Now the international community was involved in a long consultation process writing the post-2015 goals, with sustainable development as the central theme.

"We believe that health should also be considered a central development issue for policy-makers to address," the declaration states, adding that student associations had agreed to:
  • • "Advocate working towards universal health coverage as the specific health goal within the development agenda, as it addresses the need to have health as a right for all.
  • • "Promote human rights and address the needs of vulnerable and marginalised populations as a central theme across all development goals proposed.
  • • "Stand as a youth organisation in both a national and international capacity to address sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • • "Call on governments to commit to finish the unfinished Millennium Development Goals, including setting new ambitious targets to get to the end of the AIDS epidemic.
  • • "Advocate improving gender equality worldwide as a crucial component of improving global health as a whole.
  • • "Engage with governments and alongside partner youth organisations to ensure that young people and youth organisations play an important part in the policy-making process in the new development framework to promote youth advocacy and inclusive health policy.
  • • "Call on policy-makers to adapt to the changing burden of disease in their strategies by addressing non-communicable diseases and neglected tropical diseases.
  • • "Call on governments to ensure that the medical workforce is trained through transformative health care education to produce medical leaders to properly address health equity.
  • • "Advocate for health equity with a focus on the social determinants of health to ensure a coordinated approach is taken to improve the lives of populations across the world.
  • • "Explicitly highlight mental health as an important dimension of health and wellbeing.
  • • "Work with all stakeholders to ensure that health systems are equipped to deal with disaster risk management and conflict.
  • • "Encourage policy-makers and stakeholders to reduce negative impacts of the environment on health and burden of disease.
  • • "Call on policy-makers to work together to have better strategies in dealing with issues regarding intellectual property rights and patents."
The declaration said youth organisations had great potential to help shape the sustainable development goals, and that by committing to these actions and working together could "attain the healthy future we want".