Why Universal Health Coverage Matters

Everyone should have quality health care without financial hardship. That’s the premise behind Universal Health Coverage (UHC) – the World Health Organization’s (WHO) initiative to ensure all people have access to the care they need when they need it. As we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and other global threats, UHC is more important than ever.

The WHO declared December 12 International Universal Health Coverage Day as a rallying point to focus the world’s attention on the millions of people who live without it, and the leadership decisions necessary to implement it.

UHC has far-reaching consequences beyond simply providing accessible health care. According to the WHO, UHC “lifts people out of poverty, promotes well-being, protects against public health crises, and moves us to #HealthForAll.”¹ Providing quality, affordable care to everyone creates societies and economies that prioritize health as a fundamental human right. It gives people information and services to make better choices, prevent disease and lead healthier lives.

The principles of health for all offer solutions to many of today’s biggest challenges – within the health care environment and beyond. These principles include:

  • Equity. For health systems to work, they must work for everyone – no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. UHC focuses on the most vulnerable in our society, including women, children and minority populations, who face the biggest barriers to essential care.
  • Trust. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people lost faith in the health care system. UHC can restore trust by providing a system that will be there throughout a person’s lifespan. A system that is transparent. A system that focuses on providing high-quality services in all health care settings, from primary care clinics to hospitals. And a system that equips and supports frontline health workers in the community.
  • Healthy environments. UHC empowers communities to build healthy environments that promote physical, mental and social well-being.
  • Investment. UHC is the foundation of a prosperous society. Increasing public financing for health not only saves lives, but also builds resilience against future pandemics and advances the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The confluence of COVID-19 and other global threats such as non-communicable diseases and climate change make UHC all the more imperative. Now is the time for leaders to take action to support, and invest in, UHC commitments. Likewise, we must hold those leaders responsible for creating a more sustainable, affordable and life-affirming health system.

Shoring up primary care is a good place to start. Primary care is the most efficient and cost-effective way to bring high-quality health services to communities. A strong primary health care foundation powers an inclusive approach that ensures accessibility for all. Its focus on early intervention and disease prevention has the potential to save millions of lives and millions of dollars, as well as increase life expectancy.

UHC is an ambitious goal, but it’s a necessary one. Advocacy and participation are key. The WHO is leading the way with a global campaign to encourage world leaders to act on their UHC commitments. As part of the campaign, the WHO recently reinforced its decade-long partnership with the European Commission to accelerate the achievement of UHC. The agreement focuses on strengthening health systems to make them more resilient and responsive to natural, climate and humanitarian disasters.

You don’t have to be a world leader to get involved. Even if you missed International Universal Health Coverage Day, you can still join the WHO’s campaign to help build a healthy future for all. Find out how, here.


¹ https://universalhealthcoverageday.org/ accessed 12.2.22

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