Making the case for UHC amid a pandemic
By David Gold, CEO, Global Health Strategies
In the early days of AIDS, at every ACT UP action I participated in, we would chant “HEALTHCARE IS A RIGHT, ACT UP, FIGHT BACK, FIGHT AIDS.”
Fast forward to this year. In the early days of COVID-19, our company worked hard to share whatever credible scientific information we could, especially on social media. But what turned out to be one of our most popular tweets was also one of the simplest: the phrase “Health is a human right” repeated five times.
These messages resonate because in times of great uncertainties and unknowns, fundamental truths become clearer than ever. Everyone on the planet has a basic right to quality, affordable health care – and as COVID-19 has made clear, it is in all of our interest that they receive it.
On December 12th, the world will come together to mark the seventh Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day. Amid a pandemic, it is fitting that UHC2030 chose the theme “Protect Everyone.”
GHS is a global communications and advocacy company, and we are privileged to provide support to UHC2030 and other core UHC Day partners. We have been involved since the first UHC Day in 2014, when we worked with The Rockefeller Foundation to launch the day and create the UHC Coalition. In 2017, the United Nations system officially recognized UHC Day (the date is the anniversary of a UN resolution on UHC approved unanimously on December 12th, 2012).
UHC Day has traditionally been a moment to recognize progress, and before COVID-19 there were many encouraging developments. Countries like Kenya, South Africa and India were pursuing major systems reforms. At the global level, Dr. Tedros was elected head of the World Health Organization on a platform of championing UHC in all countries. Since becoming Director-General, he has become the world’s most powerful champion of Health for All. In 2019, just months before the first known COVID-19 case, the UN held a historic meeting on UHC.
Coronavirus – of course – changed everything. The pandemic has disrupted essential health services, squeezed public budgets and placed unprecedented strain on the health workforce. But COVID-19 has also reaffirmed the power and urgency of UHC. Countries that have been exemplars on coronavirus have generally based their response on the same principles that are at the heart of UHC: ensuring access to quality care for everyone, equitably and without financial hardship.
This year’s UHC Day is not the first to take place during a deadly outbreak. The first UHC Day in 2014 took place amid an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The horror of the disease spurred new solidarity and momentum to invest in UHC and strong health systems. When countries don’t have strong health systems, outbreaks become much harder to contain. So, a legacy of COVID-19 must be that we invest in health for all – everywhere.
You can find out how to get involved in the UHC Day campaign by going to: uhcday.org. Universal health coverage is core to everything we do at GHS. Now more than ever, we must stand together in the fight for Health for All.