UN Adopts Landmark Health Declaration

World leaders have adopted a high-level United Nations Political Declaration on universal health coverage (UHC). This a landmark declaration with the most comprehensive set of health commitments ever adopted at this level. Among these commitments is also alcohol taxation as critical tool to reduce the health burden and help fund health promotion.

This declaration represents a landmark for global health and development,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at WHO, as per the WHO website.

The world has 11 years left to make good on its sustainable development goals. Universal health coverage is key to ensuring that happens.”

Universal health coverage is a political choice: today world leaders have signaled their readiness to make that choice. I congratulate them,” added Dr. Tedros.

The global declaration comes a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners flagged the need to double health coverage between now and 2030 or leave up to 5 billion people unable to access health care.

Through the declaration, UN member states have committed to advance towards UHC by investing in four major areas around primary health care. These are:

  • Ensuring no one suffers financial hardship because they have had to pay for healthcare out of their own pockets
  • Implementing high-impact health interventions to combat diseases and protect women’s and children’s health
  • Strengthening health workforce and infrastructure
  • Reinforcing governance capacity.

Alcohol policy in the UHC Declaration

In paragraph 44. of the declaration, alcohol taxation is indirectly referred.

Promote and implement policy, legislative and regulatory measures, including fiscal measures as appropriate, aiming at minimizing the impact of the main risk factors for non-communicable diseases, and promote healthy diets and lifestyles, consistent with national policies, noting that price and tax measures can be an effective means to reduce consumption and related health-care costs and represent a potential revenue stream for financing for development in many countries;”

This mention of alcohol as a major risk factor for NCDs and strain on health systems is important. The inclusion of language about the important role of alcohol taxation in the context of universal health coverage and sustainable development is a significant achievement by world leaders – and a clear advocacy success for the members of IOGT International.

In the lead-up to the UNGA High-Level Meeting on UHC IOGT International had been advocating for a number of priority issues, such as:

IOGT International is calling for a paradigm shift to achieve health and well-being for all.

The paradigm shift has three elements:

  1. Pivot to prevention, health promotion and a systematic strategy to curb health harmful industries.
  2. Shift from expenditure to investment thinking regarding health spending.
  3. Make full use of health promotion taxation.


The negotiations about alcohol and tobacco taxation were protracted and earlier versions of the declaration contained concrete mentions of alcohol and tobacco. This language could ultimately not be protected from replacement – as an overview of different versions of the declaration shows – but a paragraph on the important role of using health promotion taxation to reduce the burden of risk factors on health systems and to help raise resources for health promotion is a considerable achievement.

Source Website: United Nations