Health Equity: The Key to Achieving Universal Health Coverage

Subarna Debbarma (BPT, DNHE)

Health equity is a fundamental tenet of global health discourse, deeply embedded within the broader contexts of social justice, human rights, and comprehensive development

Health equity

Equity in health dictates that all individuals globally should have fair opportunities to attain their full health potential, regardless of their socio-economic or demographic status. Disparities in health outcomes and access to healthcare services, driven by social, economic, and environmental factors, underline the urgent need to address health equity as a critical area of focus in advancing universal health coverage (UHC) worldwide.

(1). Health equity is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a principle underlying a commitment to reduce discrepancies in health status and ensure equal opportunities for all to reach the highest attainable standard of health. This emphasizes addressing avoidable and unjust variations in health determinants, health coverage, and health outcomes within and among different population groups 

(2). Health equity aims to create conditions where every individual has an equal opportunity to achieve optimal health outcomes by mitigating discrepancies in social determinants of health (SDHs). These SDHs, as identified by the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, include factors such as economic stability, education, social and community context, health and healthcare, and neighborhood and built environment 

(3). Significant socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities have been observed in health and healthcare access. For instance, in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), individuals from lower economic strata experience higher rates of illness and death than individuals from wealthier backgrounds due to uneven access to quality healthcare facilities, nutrition, and clean water.

(4). Similarly, indigenous populations worldwide face disproportionately high rates of chronic diseases and poor health outcomes due to extensive social, economic, and political marginalization.

(5). Additionally, health inequities also manifest along gender lines. Studies demonstrate that while women globally live longer than men, they often have poorer overall health outcomes due to uneven access to resources, power imbalance, and vulnerability to violence and marginalization.

(6). Addressing health equity is vital for achieving UHC, a key target of the Sustainable Development Goals. UHC aims at ensuring that all individuals and communities receive the health services they require without financial hardship. Prioritizing health equity within the UHC ensures that the most marginalized and disadvantaged segments of the population have access to comprehensive, quality health services. 

(7). Countries can promote health equity and UHC by creating inclusive health policies and designing interventions that prioritize everyone's health needs, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized population groups. Health equity strategies should focus on strengthening health systems, improving access to healthcare, ensuring adequate health financing, tackling social determinities of health and implementing decolonised health models that embrace indigenous knowledge and practices. 

(8). In summary, health equity is a central component of global health discourse and a prerequisite for UHC. It advocates for equal opportunities for all people to achieve their optimal health potential and emphasizes addressing unjust health disparities based on socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and gender lines. Creating inclusive health policies and interventions that prioritize health equity will undoubtedly propel us closer to global health equity and UHC.

#HealthEquity, #UniversalHealthCoverage, #GlobalHealth, #SocialDeterminantsOfHealth, #HealthDisparities, #WorldHealthOrganization


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2. World Health Organization (2010). Equity, social determinants and public health programmes.

3. Commission on Social Determinants of Health. (2008). Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health.

4. Braveman, P., Egerter, S., & Williams, D. R. (2011). The social determinants of health: coming of age. Annual Review of Public Health, 32, 381–398.

5. Stephens, C., Nettleton, C., Porter, J., Willis, R., & Clark, S. (2005). Indigenous peoples’ health—why are they behind everyone, everywhere? The Lancet, 366(9479), 10–13.

6. Morgan, R., George, A., Ssali, S., Hawkins, K., Molyneux, S., & Theobald, S. (2016). How to do (or not to do)… gender analysis in health systems research. Health Policy and Planning, 31(8), 1069–1078.

7. World Health Organization. (2017). Making fair choices on the path to universal health coverage.

8. Mendez, C. A. (2020). From colonialism to community resilience: decolonising global health. Harvard Public Health Review, 28.

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