“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968), American civil rights activist
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This free ESL lesson plan on healthcare has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that health and access to medical care is a fundamental right for everyone. How to provide this right to healthcare has caused considerable debate around the world. In some countries, healthcare is provided directly from the government through a system of taxation. In other countries, this policy has been criticised for opening the door to socialism. In this ESL lesson plan on healthcare, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the standard of healthcare in their countries, different ways to fund the healthcare system and whether or not healthcare should be considered a human right.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for Universal Health Coverage Day, which takes place in December. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

ABC News | “Bernie Sanders accepted pharma executives’ donations prior to new pledge”

The article talks about US Senator Bernie Sanders and his pledge not to accept any political donations from pharmaceutical companies or health insurance providers which would be seen as contradicting his policy of establishing a taxpayer-funded healthcare system for all. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is a report by CNBC News and explains how the British National Health Service (NHS) is funded, how it functions and some of the problems associated with it.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including why people need medical care, how hospital experiences could be improved and how the standard of healthcare is in the students’ countries.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with healthcare such as universal healthcare, single-payer healthcare and health insurance. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about healthcare and society. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the pros and cons of public vs private healthcare systems, the effect of political donations from the healthcare industry and whether or not healthcare is a human right.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of healthcare. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


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