Many social and economic factors have a significant impact on one’s well-being. Food, water, shelter, education, decent employment, safe working conditions, and so on are all essential for good health. Many higher-order requirements, such as social inclusion, participation in governance problems such as policy formation (e.g., on human rights and gender equity), the right to criticize unfair administration, and the ability to exert political power, are also crucial.
As well-being is associated with a broad ecology of social factors, it has become increasingly clear that a population’s health is fundamentally dependent on equitable access to social goods and inequality.
Ending global health inequality: the fight for essential medicines | Nicole Hassoun | TEDxEustis
What is health inequality?
Systematic disparities in the health status of distinct demographic groups are known as health inequalities. Individuals and nations alike bear considerable social and economic consequences as a result of these injustices. There is substantial evidence that socioeconomic factors (gender, ethnicity, level of education, employment status, and income level) have a remarkable impact on a person’s health.
There are vast inequalities in the health status of different social groups in all countries, whether they are low-, middle-, or high-income. A decline in a person’s socioeconomic status directly makes them prone to poor health conditions.
Global health is currently high on the international political agenda, with summit gatherings of international forums such as the “Group of 7” (G7) and the “Group of 20” (G20) playing an important role (G20).
From the standpoint of health sciences and policy, the increasing political importance of Global Health and international study of this topic is long overdue. Health policy in most nations is concerned with the inherent challenges of national health systems, focusing on health-financing reforms, universal health coverage, access to health care in rural areas, and other local or regional issues.
World health and global governance
Richard Horton is accurate in his assertion that good health is influenced by the political, economic, and social forces that define living situations. Immediate and comprehensive efforts on an international and national level are required to address health care on a global scale.
Climate change is most likely the most pressing and urgent global issue affecting global health. Climate change has both direct and indirect detrimental local effects (for example, droughts, flooding, and starvation) and supraregional ramifications (migration).
Even though the industrialized world receives the majority of medical resources, the majority of those impacted live in low- and middle-income countries.
Global collaboration on this topic has yielded significant results (the Paris climate agreement). Political internationalism (which is based on close international collaboration) attempts to improve equality between and within countries. It can give long-term answers to the most pressing and pertinent health problems.
Furthermore, successful and equitable wealth redistribution has the potential to curb centrifugal, nationalistic tendencies. As a result, a fair, democratic, and competitive political process is supported, laying the groundwork for increasing health and life quality across the world.
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Public health inequalities during a pandemic
COVID-19 has not been a virus that has affected everyone equally: it has targeted people who are ill and those whose everyday lives expose them to more interaction with others. As a result, it targets the poor disproportionately, particularly in developing countries and established economies such as the United States, where access to health care is not guaranteed.
There are significant differences in how the pandemic has been managed around the world, including how successful countries have been in maintaining their citizens’ health (and economic condition) and the magnitude of the inequalities.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to these disparities: the state of health care and health inequalities; the quality of public response, including reliance on science and expertise; a country’s preparedness and economic resilience; citizens trust in government guidance; and how citizens balanced their individual “freedoms” to do as they pleased with their respect for others, acknowledging that their actions generated externalities.
Unfortunately, as awful as inequality was before the pandemic and, as forcibly as the pandemic has highlighted our society’s disparities, the post-pandemic world may see even bigger inequalities unless governments act. The explanation for this is simple: COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. There is also a threat of a new epidemic originating soon.
COVID-19 has revealed and worsened inequities across countries, as well as within them. The least developed economies have worsening health conditions, fewer prepared health systems, and people living in situations that make them more susceptible to infection and, they simply lack the resources that advanced economies have to deal with the economic fallout.
The pandemic will not be controlled unless it is contained globally, and the economic crisis will not be managed until there is a substantial global recovery. That is why it is in the developed economies’ self-interest — as well as a humanitarian concern — to provide the help that developing economies and emerging markets require.
Without it, the worldwide epidemic would last longer than it would otherwise, global disparities will widen, and global divergence will emerge.
Organizations working to reduce global inequalities
The study of health inequality between countries is gaining popularity. The World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization, the United Nations Development Program, the UK Department of International Development, and the rest of the global health community have all made this a priority. The results of the Global Health Equity Initiative, which looked at social inequalities in health in countries, were published in the book “Challenging inequities in health: from ethics to action”.
The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health was established on March 18, 2005, to identify interventions and policies to eliminate global health disparities. However, the lack of a solid knowledge base makes it difficult to formulate a worldwide policy to close the gap between developed and underdeveloped countries.
Several recent global efforts focused on addressing health disparities have been launched. The World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) issued the Addis Ababa Declaration on Global Health Equity after the 13th World Congress on Public Health, held 22–27 April 2012 in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), which was “a call to act on closing some of the critical gaps in global health and well-being.”
The Global Health Corps (GHC) is a second example, which was founded in 2009, is galvanizing a global community of young leaders to create a health justice movement. By 2012, 68 fellows were serving in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, and the United States as part of the program.
Continue reading about health inequalities here
- Stiglitz, J. (2020). Conquering The Great Divide. [online] International Monetary Fund. Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2020/09/COVID19-and-global-inequality-joseph-stiglitz.htm
- Holst, J. (2020). Global Health – emergence, hegemonic trends, and biomedical reductionism. Global Health 16, 42. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12992-020-00573-4
- Meyer, S. (2019). Inequality, World Health, and Global Governance. The Lancet, 393(10188), p2297. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)30350-2
- (2018). Health Inequities and their causes. [online] World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/health-inequities-and-their-causes
- Coovadia, H., & Friedman, I. (2015-02). Reducing health inequalities in developing countries. In Oxford Textbook of Global Public Health. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 Oct. 2021, from https://oxfordmedicine.com/view/10.1093/med/9780199661756.001.0001/med-9780199661756-chapter-9.
- Ruger, J. P., & Kim, H. J. (2006). Global health inequalities: an international comparison. Journal of epidemiology and community health, 60(11), 928–936. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech.2005.041954