GENEVA (CNS) — The Vatican supports efforts to build stronger and sustainable essential health care services on the way toward achieving universal health coverage, a Vatican official said.

The Catholic Church is part of this effort in providing primary care to people in need and always “with due recognition to the sacredness of human life, from conception to natural death,” said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

Speaking to the executive board of the World Health Organization Jan. 28, the archbishop noted the organization’s call for a renewal of primary health care and the Sustainable Development Goals’ target of universal health coverage to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”

“The Holy See affirms the call to mobilize all stakeholders to take joint action to build stronger and sustainable primary health care toward achieving universal health coverage,” he said in a brief address.

In fact, over the course of 2018, “Catholic-inspired organizations provided health care at 5,287 hospitals and 15,397 dispensaries, 15,722 residential programs for the elderly and for persons living with debilitating chronic illnesses and other disabilities in all parts of the world,” he said.

“The majority of these health-related programs provide integrated, person-centered and primary care to all persons in need, but with special commitment to those who are most poor and marginalized,” he added.

He repeated Pope Francis’ message observing International Universal Health Coverage Day in 2018 in which he underlined “the right of all to have access to health care as a means of fostering the value of justice and the common good, which at the same time is the good of all and of everyone in particular.”

The Geneva meeting of WHO leadership was part of a series of preparatory gatherings for the first-ever United Nations’ high-level meeting on universal health coverage planned for Sept. 23 during the 2019 meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

The meeting, dedicated to the theme, “Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World,” is geared to inspiring global action to achieve universal health coverage by 2030 as part of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.

A preparatory report by the WHO published Dec. 27, 2018, found that: At least half the world’s population still lacks access to essential health services; some 800 million people spend more than 10 percent of their household budget on health care; and almost 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket health expenses.

As part of the sustainable development goal to promote the health and well-being of each nation’s people, universal health coverage was to include financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for everyone.