6 February 2024

The 2023 UHC Day campaign emphasized the need for immediate and tangible steps to make health for all a reality

Umbrella made of a collage of photos of patients and health workers, and the following text: "Health for all: Time for Action", Universal Health Coverage Day, 12.12.23

Each year on 12 December, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) advocates raise their voices to share the stories of the millions of people worldwide still waiting for health, to call on leaders to make bigger and smarter investments in health, and to remind the world that Health for All is a human right and an imperative to create equitable and resilient societies.  

The urgent case to translate political commitments into action 

12 December 2023 followed the 2023 UN High-level meeting (UN HLM) on UHC, during which Member States adopted the Political Declaration on UHC. They also unanimously recognized that UHC is fundamental to achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – not only those related to health and well-being (SDG 3), but also those related to poverty eradication, access to education, gender equality, climate change and building peaceful and inclusive societies. 

The 2023 UHC Day campaign aimed to maintain the momentum from the UN HLM and the Political Declaration, highlighting the urgent need to move beyond commitments to concrete action. Indeed, 4.5 billion people – more than half of the world’s population – do not have access to essential health services, and an estimated 2 billion people face financial hardship due to out-of-pocket health expenses, including 344 million people living in extreme poverty. 

The campaign also highlighted the need to tackle growing climate-related health threats, emphasizing that UHC based on a primary health care approach is a necessary means for achieving robust and sustainable pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.  

The total number of UHC Day-related activities, events and government pledges was similar to 2022, indicating the campaign’s ongoing reach and influence in 2023. This year’s campaign saw growth in several areas, including a 25% increase in champion quote graphic participation and a sharp rise in news coverage about UHC and related topics. On the other hand, digital engagement on X (formerly Twitter) – the campaign’s core social media platform – was down from 2022, corresponding to broader trends in X’s declining user base and platform activity.  

Drawing on their diverse experiences and perspectives as policymakers, members of parliament (MPs) shared insights on the importance of cross-sector and cross-platform collaboration to achieve UHC, highlighted examples of specific reforms and programs in their countries, and emphasized the role of investing in UHC through national health plans and budget allocations. Youth were interested in understanding how MPs can keep UHC as a top priority on national agendas and how to strengthen health systems as part of the response to climate change. 

Campaign highlights 

  • Virtual town hall with youth and parliamentarians: A virtual town hall on 11 December, “Shaping our health future: young leaders and parliamentarians unite for UHC,” brought together MPs and youth UHC advocates for an engaging discussion on what is needed to achieve health for all in every country by 2030. Youth were particularly interested in understanding how MPs can keep UHC as a top priority on national agendas and how to strengthen health systems as part of the response to climate change. MPs emphasized the importance of investing in UHC through national budgets and securing cross-party support through legislation. They also highlighted the need to address budgetary constraints, equity challenges and barriers faced by vulnerable and marginalized communities. This event marked the beginning of a 100-day youth campaign which will culminate with the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in March 2024.  

  • Advocacy letter campaign: An advocacy letter template served as a resource for campaigners to call on parliamentarians to demand urgent action on UHC. Anchored around the UHC Action Agenda and Political Declaration, the template highlights action-oriented policy recommendations that policymakers should implement to advance UHC and health security.

  • Champion campaign: The 2023 champion campaign saw the participation of 87 champions (a 25% increase from 2022), including international health/development leaders, parliamentarians/policymakers, regional and international health advocates, and youth champions. Geographically, they spanned Asia, Africa, North and South America and Australia, with significant representation from Africa, Europe and Asia. They included prominent figures such as United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, several heads of UN agencies, ministers and MPs.  

  • Government engagement: To our knowledge, at least fifteen governments reinforced their pledge to health for all, demonstrated through a series of public declarations, new policies, and new programs. Actions at the global, regional, and local levels demonstrate a broad swath of support for UHC. Notable engagements include Nigeria’s Health Sector Renewal Investment Initiative to improve health outcomes, and the launch of the Lusaka Agenda, which provides a foundation for coordinated action for the long-term evolution of global health initiatives and the wider health ecosystem. 

  • Global activity heatmap: As in previous years, the heatmap featured a diverse collection of UHC Day activities, representing actions taken by civil society organizations, NGOs, think tanks, and academic/professional associations and networks. This year, 110 activities across 39 countries were featured, comparable to 2022. Campaigners engaged with UHC Day by hosting in-person and virtual events and organizing social media campaigns. 

  • Digital engagement: UHC Day-related engagement on X (formerly Twitter) decreased in 2023, with 37,000 UHC Day-related mentions (versus 48,300 in 2022), 1.2 billion impressions (versus 1.5 billion in 2022) and 87 million accounts reached (versus 136 million in 2022). These decreases correspond to broader trends in X’s declining user base and platform activity of about 25-30%. The UHC Day campaign website saw 11,500 sessions and 7,500 visitors from 164 countries (compared to 14,550 sessions and 10,000 visitors from 172 countries in 2022).  

  • Media and reports: Despite a crowded media landscape saturated with news of the COP28 climate conference and ongoing coverage of the conflict in Gaza, UHC Day garnered significant media coverage, including earned media, blogs – including a statement from UHC2030 co-chairs urging the international community to unite behind health for UHC –, editorials, press releases, statements, and journal articles (over 570 compared to 140 in 2022). It also saw the publication of several significant reports on UHC, including the WHO’s Global Health Expenditure Report, the reports on the financial protection from the WHO Western Pacific and Europe regional offices, and our State of UHC Commitment report.  

We thank all the UHC advocates who participated in the 2023 UHC Day campaign for their tireless work to make health for all a reality. We look forward to seeing you again for UHC Day 2024! 

Click here to read the full report on UHC Day 2023. 

Click here to learn more about UHC Day.