US President Barack Obama vowed to begin comprehensive reform of the US' troubled health care system this year and launch a major initiative to find a cure for cancer "in our time".
Giving his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress, Obama argued that fixing health care in America was an economic imperative as well as a moral responsibility to the US people.
"The cost of our health care has weighed down our economy, and our conscience long enough," he said.
"So let there be no doubt, health care reform cannot, it must not, wait and it will not wait another year," added Obama, who has made health care a major plank of his first annual budget to be unveiled later this week.
Thanks to majorities in both houses of Congress, Obama's Democratic party has already been able this year to pass previously stalled legislation providing health insurance to some 11 million children.
Obama pledged that his first budget would further expand health coverage while introducing cost-saving reforms, including investment in electronic health records.
The budget "includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform -- a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for very American," he said.
"It's a commitment that's paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue."
The budget will also "launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time," he said.
"And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control."