“Health Inequities Are Avoidable” says the WHO. But in spite of decades of studies, reports and speeches, the gap between those that have access to adequate health services and those that do not, grows each year. The WHO also states that “Ensuring equitable access requires a transformation in how health services are funded, managed and delivered so that services are centred around the needs of people and communities”. But instead of helping marginalised communities to demand their right to health, the WHO prefers empowering the private sector through promoting Universal Health Coverage, allowing governments to ‘look good’ while changing little for those in need.
Health inequities are systematic differences in the health status of different population groups. These inequities have significant social and economic costs both to individuals and societies. There is ample evidence that social factors, including education, employment status, income level, gender and ethnicity have a marked influence on how healthy a person is. In all countries – whether low-, middle- or high-income – there are wide disparities in the health status of different social groups. The lower an individual’s socio-economic position, the higher their risk of poor health.
The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. “Every aspect of government and the economy has the potential to affect health and health equity – finance, education, housing, employment, transport, and health”-WHO
We must learn more about health inequities, and the reasons they continue to grow in our communities. We must mind the gap, and act to close it.