Estimated WRs,

Dear colleagues and friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that societies are only as well protected as their weakest members.

But also, as we at WHO well know, empowered and educated communities are one of the best defenses against health threats.

Universal health care is at the heart of WHO’s mission to promote health, protect the world and help the vulnerable.

That’s why our goal is to expand the benefits of UHC to one billion more people.

UHC implies access to quality health services for everyone – rich and poor, healthy and sick, young and old – without fear of financial hardship.

The path to UHC depends on strong government engagement with communities, especially those most at risk.

At the center of this commitment is a meaningful dialogue with those who are served by the health system.

In essence, it is a social contract for UHC based on the idea that health is not a product of strong and wealthy nations; it is the means.

And the best way to protect and promote the health of a population is to ensure that all people have access to the health services they need, anytime, anywhere, without undue cost or debilitating debt.

The WHO Handbook on Social Inclusion for Universal Health Care provides countries with a valuable tool for stimulating constructive discussions between those who control the health system and those who care for it.

It provides practical guidance to policy-makers on how to meet the challenges of gathering hard-to-reach populations; to facilitate dialogue; and to resolve power imbalances.

In a nutshell, this guide looks at how governments systematically engage with communities and civil society.

It contains specific examples to draw from, including community engagement in Madagascar and India;

civil society engagement in Burkina Faso, Mexico and Portugal;

and population consultations in France and Tunisia to name a few.

No matter how big or small, rich or poor a country is, social participation is relevant to all Member States.

Helping countries involve the voices of community and civil society in policymaking is critical to ensuring no one is left behind and to establishing the most important component in a resilient health system: trust.

Thank you and I hope you have a fruitful discussion.