International Universal Health Coverage Day - December 12
(Last Updated On: May 16, 2022)


Every year December 12th marks International Universal Health Coverage Day as a way to urge countries to accelerate progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The day also seeks to promote the idea that access to affordable quality health care is a human right.

Universal health coverage is a system that provides quality medical care to all of its citizens. The federal government offers health care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Out of 33 developed countries, only the United States is without universal health coverage. In 2010, President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This, however, is not considered universal health care.

Of all the developed countries, Americans are most familiar with Canada’s universal health care system. Canada has a single-payer system where free care is provided for all, regardless of who can pay. Vision, dental, and prescription drugs are paid for by private supplemental insurance. Some of the advantages of universal health coverage include:

  • Lowers the overall cost of health care
  • Lowers administrative costs
  • Standardizes services
  • Prevents future social costs

There are some disadvantages as well. These include long wait times for medical services, health care costs overwhelming government budgets, and healthy people paying for the sickest.
Despite these cons, the UN and the World Health Organization (WHO strongly advocates for universal health coverage. WHO states that UHC means that all people and communities can use the health services they need without the threat of financial hardship. UHC is based on the WHO constitution of 1948 that declares health a fundamental human right. WHO believes that UHC also brings hope of better health and protection for the world’s poorest.

HOW TO OBSERVE #InternationalUniversalHealthCoverageDay

Events on this day are held to raise awareness of the need to have a strong health system and universal health coverage. Many people around the world share their stories on what it’s like to go without health care coverage. To participate:

  • Write to government officials encouraging them to push for universal health coverage
  • Write an op-ed in your local paper that states the advantages of having universal health coverage
  • If you have ever gone without health insurance when you have needed it, share your story
  • Watch a healthcare documentary that discusses the cost of health care. A few include Money-Driven Medicine, The Waiting Room, and Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare
  • Share this day on social media with #InternationalUniversalHealthCoverageDay


On December 12th, 2012 the UN General Assembly made it a priority to accelerate the progress toward Universal Health Coverage. In 2015, the UN adopted a target of universal health coverage by 2030. This included access to quality essential health care services and safe and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. On December 12th, 2017 the UN passed a resolution on global health and foreign policy that addressed the health of the most vulnerable populations. On that same day, the UN proclaimed December 12th as International Universal Health Coverage Day. Recent themes for this day have included:

  • 2019: Keep the Promise
  • 2018: Unite for Universal Health Coverage: Now is the Time for Collective Action
  • 2017: Health for All – Rise for Our Right


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