Leveraging universal health coverage is essential for addressing...
UHC Day 2020 capped a historic year in health, defined by the worst pandemic in a century. Since the first cases were reported, COVID-19 has been an extreme stress-test for the world’s health systems and societies, revealing gaps and inequities that should have been addressed long before the virus struck.
In some cases, momentum and resources for universal health coverage (UHC) undeniably waned as leaders responded to the immediate threat; in others, the crisis brought new urgency to the case for UHC, with more leaders paying attention, and more people rising to demand change.
Against this background, UHC Day 2020 had one message for leaders everywhere: “To end this crisis and build a safer, healthier future, now is the time to act for health systems that protect everyone.”
The sub-themes of equity, health systems and political accountability remained just as critical as in past years, and themes such as solidarity, health workers and investment took on a greater focus than in previous years in light of COVID-19.
A common thread of campaign messages, as well as partners’ interpretations, was the need to shift global power dynamics and finally dismantle the many structural inequities that underpin the fight for UHC as well as the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The key priority for UHC Day 2020 was engaging and amplifying the voices of decision-makers who ultimately can influence local, national and organizational priorities. There was visible support for advancing UHC globally from leaders within the UN system, from multilateral organizations and at the national level from country governments.
As in past years, governments and organizations timed major announcements and launches of new content or services to UHC Day; decisions that in some cases could have immediate and substantial on-the-ground impact. For example, countries such as India, Kenya and Nigeria announced significant financial pledges for improving maternal and newborn health and social services that have been disrupted by COVID-19 through UHC programmes. Thailand approved a proposal to increase medical treatment and services included in its free UHC scheme. Countries including Pakistan and Thailand announced the rollout of free health services for vulnerable people. South Africa’s president signed a performance agreement with the Ministry of Health towards achieving 90% UHC by 2030 through the government’s national health insurance policy.
The fact that more and more governments are utilizing UHC Day as a milestone to deliver these ‘good news’ policy updates signals growing expectation and recognition that there is a large audience of people around the world that pay attention to and engage with the UHC Day campaign.
In the face of the pandemic, the UHC Day campaign itself had to evolve as well, much as it has done every year since the first UHC Day in 2014. With physical distancing and other public health restrictions in mind, the multi-stakeholder 12.12. Coordination Group of UHC Day (12.12 CG) — hosted by UHC 2030 — encouraged and supported a substantial shift toward greater digital and individual engagement, culminating in a 24-hour virtual rally on 12 December.
Key campaign highlights include:
- The launch of the first ever State of Commitment to UHC Synthesis and country profile data dashboard (link)
- Over 1.3 billion potential Twitter impressions reaching 126.7 million accounts from 1-16 December.Twitter analytics suggest that the 2020 campaign was marked by higher-impact and higher-visibility contributors, but not necessarily more contributors.
- From 1-16 December, the site had 9,073 unique visitors from 169 countries around the world and 27,852 unique page views, with 2,143 visitors on UHC Day itself. Site visits peaked on 11 December with 2,481 visitors. Overall, activity on the site from 1-16 December represents a 40% increase in site traffic over 2019.
- The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, CORE Group and UHC2030 convened online with more than 1700 partners across the globe for the virtual summit : “Lives in the Balance: improving the health of women, children and adolescents through Universal Health Coverage”, which aimed to detail how COVID-19 is impacting progress towards achieving UHC.
- Widespread incorporation of COVID-specific messaging and tools, including the production of Health for All real face masks and development of augmented reality digital mask filters
- 60+ high-level UHC Day champions engaged in the campaign, including 12 permanent missions to the United Nations
- 123 activities spanning 40 countries submitted to the global campaign heatmap
- 27 stories and interviews published by CSEM on civil society’s role during the pandemic to “protect everyone”
- This year in-country media rose to the fore with articles highlighting new UHC initiatives and calls for government and INGO accountability to keep their health for all promises