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The UK doesn't understand Universal Health Coverage Day

Friday December 12th is the first ever Universal Health Coverage Day, a day that draws attention to the one billion people who still lack access to basic health care, and the other 100 million people who fall into poverty while trying to access it each year. Sounds like a good reason for a day.

But over here in the UK, we’re confused. If there is supposed to be a billion people without access to basic health care, how come we don’t know any of them? I’ve even asked all of my friends here, and none of their neighbours, family members, or co-workers lack access to health care. I mean, whenever we’re sick, we just go down to the local NHS clinic, see a doctor for free, and things tend to be looking better from there.

My grandmother hadn't even released her first rap album when this pamphlet was made.

And the NHS (National Health Service) is precisely the reason why we don’t know anyone who is cut off from health care. Implemented in the wake of World War II, the NHS has been guaranteeing the right to health of the British people for almost 75 years. It provides access to preventative health care, hospitals, and medications, and is mainly funded through tax collected by the government. It means that our ability to shake off illness doesn’t depend on the size of our family’s bank account.

Meanwhile, elsewhere...

Over in Southeast Asia and Africa, the situation doesn’t look as good. Nearly a third of households in these parts of the world have to borrow money or sell assets to pay for health care, which creates a domino effect of problems that reduce the output and wellbeing of not just the families in question, but their communities in general. It’s just a much harder battle.

But the future isn’t bleak. While the UK was certainly right at the front of the pack when it implemented its universal health system, dozens of countries around the world are heading in that direction right now. Importantly, major countries like India, China, Brazil, and Russia are taking steps towards universal health coverage, representing almost half of the world’s population.

Two years ago, the United Nations unanimously adopted a resolution to urge national leaders to ensure access to quality health care without financial hardship, and Universal Health Coverage Day exists to remind us that it’s a resolution worth delivering on. If national governments around the world really get serious on this one, it would change hundreds of millions of lives!

You can add your voice to Universal Health Coverage Day by using the #HealthForAll hashtag on Twitter, or jumping into the Virtual Photo Booth!


Michael Wilson