People enter the Supreme Court building in Washington March 26 to attend oral arguments in challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Two years after President Barack Obama signed the health care overhaul into law, the high court began three days of oral arguments on challenges to various aspects of the law. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

GENEVA (CNS) — The Vatican praised national efforts to provide universal and affordable health care access and coverage, noting that policies based on the principles of equity, human rights and social justice ensure the best care for the most people.

Governments also should recognize and support the work of nongovernmental organizations, including the church, in their efforts to provide wider health care access “without obliging them to participate in activities they find morally abhorrent,” said Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

The archbishop made his comments to senior government health care officials attending the World Health Organization’s annual World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The May 21-26 meeting focused on a number of public health issues, including universal health coverage, mental disorders and the Millennium Development Goals.

Archbishop Zimowski, who headed the Vatican delegation to the assembly, urged all 194 member states “to aim for affordable universal coverage and access for all citizens on the basis of equity and solidarity.”

He reiterated Pope Benedict XVI’s call for “real distributive justice which, on the basis of objective needs, guarantees adequate care to all,” while adding that health care should never “disregard the moral rules that must govern it.”

The archbishop said the Catholic Church is a valuable partner with the state in providing health care. “The efforts and contribution of such organizations and institutions toward universal access merit the recognition and support of both the states and the international community” without requiring such organizations to take part in gravely immoral activities, he said.

Developing nations with emerging economies “are moving toward universal coverage, and this is very encouraging,” he said.

Such a positive development, he said, is due not just to these states having more financial resources at their disposal, but also to their commitment to upholding principles that value the well-being of all citizens.

“It has been observed that good policies that promote equity have guaranteed better health for a greater number of citizens” in such countries, he said.

Therefore, to better promote universal coverage “fundamental values such as equity, human rights and social justice need to become explicit policy objectives,” he said.

Achieving universal coverage “cannot be the effort of the state machinery alone,” as it requires support from all of society and local communities, he said.