Notions of equity are fundamental to, and drive much of the current thinking about global health. Health inequity, however, is usually measured using health inequality as a proxy – implicitly conflating equity and equality. Unfortunately measures of global health inequality do not take account of the health inequity associated with the additional, and unfair, encumbrances that poor health status confers on economically deprived populations.
Using global health data from the World Health Organization's 14 mortality sub-regions, a measure of global health inequality (based on a decomposition of the Pietra Ratio) is contrasted with a new measure of global health inequity. The inequity measure weights the inequality data by regional economic capacity (GNP per capita).
The least healthy global sub-region is shown to be around four times worse off under a health inequity analysis than would be revealed under a straight health inequality analysis. In contrast the healthiest sub-region is shown to be about four times better off. The inequity of poor health experienced by poorer regions around the world is significantly worse than a simple analysis of health inequality reveals.
By measuring the inequity and not simply the inequality, the magnitude of the disparity can be factored into future economic and health policy decision making.
Global health financing has increased dramatically in recent years, indicative of a rise in health as a foreign policy issue. Several governments have issued specific foreign policy statements on global health and a new term, global health diplomacy, has been coined to describe the processes by which state and non-state actors engage to position health issues more prominently in foreign policy decision-making. Their ability to do so is important to advancing international cooperation in health. In this paper we review the arguments for health in foreign policy that inform global health diplomacy. These are organized into six policy frames: security, development, global public goods, trade, human rights and ethical/moral reasoning. Each of these frames has implications for how global health as a foreign policy issue is conceptualized. Differing arguments within and between these policy frames, while overlapping, can also be contradictory. This raises an important question about which arguments prevail in actual state decision-making. This question is addressed through an analysis of policy or policy-related documents and academic literature pertinent to each policy framing with some assessment of policy practice. The reference point for this analysis is the explicit goal of improving global health equity. This goal has increasing national traction within national public health discourse and decision-making and, through the Millennium Development Goals and other multilateral reports and declarations, is entering global health policy discussion. Initial findings support conventional international relations theory that most states, even when committed to health as a foreign policy goal, still make decisions primarily on the basis of the 'high politics' of national security and economic material interests. Development, human rights and ethical/moral arguments for global health assistance, the traditional 'low politics' of foreign policy, are present in discourse but do not appear to dominate practice. While political momentum for health as a foreign policy goal persists, the framing of this goal remains a contested issue. The analysis offered in this article may prove helpful to those engaged in global health diplomacy or in efforts to have global governance across a range of sectoral interests pay more attention to health equity impacts.
A system that rewards population health must be able to measure and track health inequalities. Health inequalities have most commonly been measured in a bivariate fashion, as a joint distribution of health and another attribute such as income, education, or race/ethnicity. I argue this practice gives insufficient information to reduce health inequalities and propose a summary measure of health inequalities, which gives information both on overall health inequality and bivariate health inequalities. I introduce 2 approaches to develop a summary measure of health inequalities. The bottom-up approach defines attributes of interest, measures bivariate health inequalities related to these attributes separately, and then combines these bivariate health inequalities into a summary index. The top-down approach measures overall health inequality and then breaks it down into health inequalities related to different attributes. After describing the 2 approaches in terms of building-block measurement properties, aggregation, value, data and sample size requirements, and communication, I recommend that, when data are available, a summary measure should use the top-down approach. In addition, a strong communication strategy is necessary to allow users of the summary measure to understand how it was calculated and what it means.
The IADR Global Oral Health Inequalities Task Group on Dental Caries has synthesized current evidence and opinion to identify a five-year implementation and research agenda which should lead to improvements in global oral health, with particular reference to the implementation of current best evidence as well as integrated action to reduce caries and health inequalities between and within countries. The Group determined that research should: integrate health and oral health wherever possible, using common risk factors; be able to respond to and influence international developments in health, healthcare, and health payment systems as well as dental prevention and materials; and exploit the potential for novel funding partnerships with industry and foundations. More effective communication between and among the basic science, clinical science, and health promotion/public health research communities is needed. Translation of research into policy and practice should be a priority for all. Both community and individual interventions need tailoring to achieve a more equal and person-centered preventive focus and reduce any social gradient in health. Recommendations are made for both clinical and public health implementation of existing research and for caries-related research agendas in clinical science, health promotion/public health, and basic science.
Dental caries; health inequalities; health disparities; implementation research; translational research
A world divided by health inequalities poses ethical challenges for global health. International and national responses to health disparities must be rooted in ethical values about health and its distribution; this is because ethical claims have the power to motivate, delineate principles, duties and responsibilities, and hold global and national actors morally responsible for achieving common goals. Theories of justice are necessary to define duties and obligations of institutions and actors in reducing inequalities. The problem is the lack of a moral framework for solving problems of global health justice.
To study why global health inequalities are morally troubling, why efforts to reduce them are morally justified, how they should be measured and evaluated; how much priority disadvantaged groups should receive; and to delineate roles and responsibilities of national and international actors and institutions.
Discussion and conclusions
Duties and obligations of international and state actors in reducing global health inequalities are outlined. The ethical principles endorsed include the intrinsic value of health to well‐being and equal respect for all human life, the importance of health for individual and collective agency, the concept of a shortfall from the health status of a reference group, and the need for a disproportionate effort to help disadvantaged groups. This approach does not seek to find ways in which global and national actors address global health inequalities by virtue of their self‐interest, national interest, collective security or humanitarian assistance. It endorses the more robust concept of “human flourishing” and the desire to live in a world where all people have the capability to be healthy. Unlike cosmopolitan theory, this approach places the role of the nation‐state in the forefront with primary, though not sole, moral responsibility. Rather shared health governance is essential for delivering health equity on a global scale.
It is important that we monitor socio-economic inequality in health. Inequality in child oral health has been expected to widen because of widening socio-economic inequality. This study aimed to evaluate trends in income-related inequality in caries experience of Australian children. Cross-sectional studies in 1992/93 and 2002/03 collected data on deciduous caries experience of 5- to 10-year-olds and permanent caries experience of 6- to 12-year-olds. Household composition and income was used to calculate quartiles of equivalized income. Slope Index of Inequality (SII), Concentration Index (CI), and regression-based rate ratios were used to quantify income-related inequality and to evaluate trends. Income-related inequality in caries experience was evident regardless of time and dentition. The three indicators of inequality indicate a significant increase in income-related inequality in child deciduous caries experience during the decade. The income inequality in permanent caries experience did not change significantly. Income inequalities increased in deciduous teeth, but not in permanent teeth, among Australian children.
inequality; caries; children; Australia; trend
Background An international review of the Cambodian Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in 2010 and other data show that despite immunization coverage increases and vaccine preventable diseases incidence reductions, inequities in access to immunization services exist. Utilizing immunization and health systems literature, analysis of global health databases and the EPI review findings, this paper examines the characteristics of immunization access and outcome inequities, and describes proposed longer-term strategic and operational responses to these problems.
Findings The national programme has evolved from earlier central and provincial level planning to strengthening routine immunization coverage through the District level ‘Reaching Every District Strategy’. However, despite remarkable improvements, the review found over 20% of children surveyed were not fully immunized, primarily from communities where inequities of both access and impact persist. These inequities relate mainly to socio-economic exposures including wealth and education level, population mobility and ethnicity. To address these problems, a shift in strategic and operational response is proposed that will include (a) a re-focus of planning on facility level to detect disadvantaged communities, (b) establishment of monitoring systems to provide detailed information on community access and utilization, (c) development of communication strategies and health networks that enable providers to adjust service delivery according to the needs of vulnerable populations, and (d) securing financial, management and political commitment for ‘reaching every community’.
Conclusions For Cambodia to achieve its immunization equity objectives and disease reduction goals, a shift of emphasis to health centre and community is needed. This approach will maximize the benefits of new vaccine introduction in the coming ‘Decade of Vaccines’, plus potentially extend the reach of other life-saving maternal and child health interventions to the socially disadvantaged, both in Cambodia and in other countries with a similar level of development.
Immunization; health equity; reaching every district; reaching every community
In spite of improvements in global health over the 20th century, health inequities are increasing. Mounting evidence suggests that reducing health inequities requires taking action on the social determinants of health (SDOH), which include income, education, employment, political empowerment and other factors. This paper introduces an alternative health education curriculum, developed by the US-based non-profit organization Just Health Action, which teaches critical health literacy as a step towards empowering people to achieve health equity. Critical health literacy is defined as an individual's understanding of the SDOH combined with the skills to take action at both the individual and the community level. Prior to describing our curricular framework, we connect the recommendations of the World Health Organization Commission on the SDOH with the objectives of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion by arguing that achieving them is reliant on critical health literacy. Then we describe our four-part curricular framework for teaching critical health literacy. Part 1, Knowledge, focuses on teaching the SDOH and the paradigm of health as a human right. Part 2, Compass, refers to activities that help students find their own direction as a social change agent. Part 3, Skills, refers to teaching specific advocacy tools and strategies. Part 4, Action, refers to the development and implementation of an action intended to increase health equity by addressing the SDOH. We describe activities that we use to motivate, engage and empower students to take action on the SDOH and provide examples of advocacy skills students have learned and actions they have implemented.
social determinants of health; health equity; advocacy; health education
To improve health and economy of the world population, the United Nations has set up eight international goals, known as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. The goals include: (1) eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; (2) achieving universal primary education; (3) promoting gender equality; (4) reducing child mortality; (5) improving maternal health; (6) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; (7) ensuring environmental sustainability; and (8) developing a global partnership for development. Having been in the midway from the 2015 deadline, the UN Secretary-General urges countries to engage constructively to review progress towards the MDGs. This paper aims to evaluate advances in public health, with special reference to gender inequalities in health, health sector reform, global burden of disease, neglected tropical diseases, vaccination, antibiotic use, sanitation and safe water, nutrition, tobacco and alcohol use, indicators of health, and disease prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean region (LAC). The paper also identifies areas of deficits for the achievement of MDGs in LAC.
Latin America and Caribbean; public health; Millennium Development Goal; global burden of disease; inequality
Despite encouraging reductions in global maternal mortality rates, Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 on reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health remains the most off-track of all MDGs. Furthermore a preoccupation with aggregate coverage statistics masks extensive disparities in health improvements between societal groups. Recent national health indicators for Cambodia highlight impressive improvements, for example, in maternal, infant and child mortality, whilst substantial government commitments have been made since 2000 to address health inequities. It is therefore timely to explore the extent of equity in access to key reproductive and maternal health services in Cambodia and how this has changed over time.
Analysis was conducted on three rounds of Demographic and Health Survey data from 2000, 2005 and 2010. Outcome variables comprised utilisation of six reproductive and maternal health services – antenatal care, skilled birth attendance, facility-based delivery, postnatal care, met need for family planning and abortion by skilled provider. Four equity measures were calculated – equity gaps, equity ratios, concentration curves and concentration indices. Household assets were used to create the social-stratification variable, using principal components analysis.
Coverage levels of all six services improved over the decade. Coverage improvements were greatest amongst wealthier quintiles of the population, although poorer quintiles also increased use of services. Critically, inequity in service use of all services dramatically reduced over time, except for postnatal care where inequity increased slightly. However, in 2010 inequity in service use remained favouring wealthier quintiles, greatest in use of skilled birth attendance and facility-based delivery, though the magnitude of inequity was substantially reduced compared to 2000. Met need for family planning was almost perfectly equitable in 2010.
Cambodia has made impressive improvements in overall coverage of reproductive and maternal health services over the last decade, and also in the distribution of their use across wealth quintiles. A range of pro-poor health financing and supply-side policies as well as non-health factors may have contributed to these achievements. Further research will explore specific schemes qualitatively and quantitatively to assess their impact on equity and service use.
Equity; Access; Utilisation; Reproductive and maternal health services; Cambodia
Vietnam has achieved considerable success in economic development, poverty reduction, and health over a relatively short period of time. However, there is concern that inequalities in health outcomes and intervention coverage are widening. This study explores if inequalities in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition changed over time in Vietnam in 1997–2006, and if inequalities were different depending on the type of stratifying variable used to measure inequalities and on the type of outcome studied.
Using data from four nationally representative household surveys conducted in 1997–2006, we study inequalities in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition outcomes and intervention coverage by computing concentration indices by living standards, maternal education, ethnicity, region, urban/rural residence, and sex of child.
Inequalities in maternal, newborn and child health persisted in 1997–2006. Inequalities were largest by living standards, but not trivial by the other stratifying variables. Inequalities in health outcomes generally increased over time, while inequalities in intervention coverage generally declined. The most equitably distributed interventions were family planning, exclusive breastfeeding, and immunizations. The most inequitably distributed interventions were those requiring multiple service contacts, such as four or more antenatal care visits, and those requiring significant support from the health system, such as skilled birth attendance.
Three main policy implications emerge. First, persistent inequalities suggest the need to address financial and other access barriers, for example by subsidizing health care for the poor and ethnic minorities and by support from other sectors, for example in strengthening transportation networks. This should be complemented by careful monitoring and evaluation of current program design and implementation to ensure effective and efficient use of resources. Second, greater inequalities for interventions that require multiple service contacts imply that inequalities could be reduced by strengthening information and service provision by community and village health workers to promote and sustain timely care-seeking. Finally, larger inequalities for interventions that require a fully functioning health system suggest that investments in health facilities and human resources, particularly in areas that are disproportionately inhabited by the poor and ethnic minorities, may contribute to reducing inequalities.
Equity; Health care utilization; Health inequalities; Health outcomes; Reproductive health; Maternal health; Newborn health; Child health
In recent years, health inequalities have become an important public health concern and the subject of both research and policy attention in Korea. Government reports, as well as many epidemiological studies, have provided evidence that a wide range of health outcomes and health-related behaviors are socioeconomically patterned, and that the magnitude of health inequalities is even increasing. However, except for the revised Health Plan 2010 targets for health equity, few government policies have explicitly addressed health inequalities. Although a number of economic and social policies may have had an impact on health inequalities, such impact has scarcely been evaluated. In this review, we describe the current status of research and policy on health inequalities in Korea. We also suggest future challenges of approaches and policies to reduce health inequalities and highlight the active and intensive engagement of many policy sectors and good evidence for interventions that will make meaningful reduction of health inequalities possible.
Economic Recession; Educational Status; Epidemiologic Studies; Health Policy; Income; Korea; Occupations; Poverty; Social Policy; Socioeconomic Factors
The fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG5) aims at improving maternal health. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) declined from 400 to 260 per 100000 live births between 1990 and 2008. During the same period, MMR in sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 870 to 640. The decreased in MMR has been attributed to increase in the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel. Global improvements maternal health and health service provision indicators mask inequalities both between and within countries. In Namibia, there are significant inequities in births attended by skilled providers that favour those that are economically better off. The objective of this study was to identify the drivers of wealth-related inequalities in child delivery by skilled health providers.
Namibia Demographic and Health Survey data of 2006-07 are analysed for the causes of inequities in skilled birth attendance using a decomposable health concentration index and the framework of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health.
About 80.3% of the deliveries were attended by skilled health providers. Skilled birth attendance in the richest quintile is about 70% more than that of the poorest quintile. The rate of skilled attendance among educated women is almost twice that of women with no education. Furthermore, women in urban areas access the services of trained birth attendant 30% more than those in rural areas. Use of skilled birth attendants is over 90% in Erongo, Hardap, Karas and Khomas Regions, while the lowest (about 60-70%) is seen in Kavango, Kunene and Ohangwena. The concentration curve and concentration index show statistically significant wealth-related inequalities in delivery by skilled providers that are to the advantage of women from economically better off households (C = 0.0979; P < 0.001).
Delivery by skilled health provider by various maternal and household characteristics was 21 percentage points higher in urban than rural areas; 39 percentage points higher among those in richest wealth quintile than the poorest; 47 percentage points higher among mothers with higher level of education than those with no education; 5 percentage points higher among female headed households than those headed by men; 20 percentage points higher among people with health insurance cover than those without; and 31 percentage points higher in Karas region than Kavango region.
Inequalities in wealth and education of the mother are seen to be the main drivers of inequities in the percentage of births attended by skilled health personnel. This clearly implies that addressing inequalities in access to child delivery services should not be confined to the health system and that a concerted multi-sectoral action is needed in line with the principles of the Primary health Care.
Throughout the world, wealth and income are becoming more concentrated. Growing evidence suggests that the distribution of income-in addition to the absolute standard of living enjoyed by the poor-is a key determinant of population health. A large gap between rich people and poor people leads to higher mortality through the breakdown of social cohesion. The recent surge in income inequality in many countries has been accompanied by a marked increase in the residential concentration of poverty and affluence. Residential segregation diminishes the opportunities for social cohesion. Income inequality has spillover effects on society at large, including increased rates of crime and violence, impeded productivity and economic growth, and the impaired functioning of representative democracy. The extent of inequality in society is often a consequence of explicit policies and public choice. Reducing income inequality offers the prospect of greater social cohesiveness and better population health.
Despite the large number of studies, mostly in developed economies, there is limited consensus on the health effects of inequality. Recently a related literature has examined the relationship between relative deprivation and health as a mechanism to explain the economic inequality and health relationship. This study evaluates the relationship between mortality and economic inequality, as measured by area-level Gini coefficients, as well as the relationship between mortality and relative deprivation, in the context of a middle-income country, Costa Rica. We followed a nationally representative prospective cohort of approximately 16,000 individuals aged 30 and over who were randomly selected from the 1984 census. These individuals were then linked to the Costa Rican National Death Registry until Dec. 31, 2007. Hazard models were used to estimate the relative risk of mortality for all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality for two indicators: canton-level income inequality and relative deprivation based on asset ownership. Results indicate that there was an unexpectedly negative association between canton income inequality and mortality, but the relationship is not robust to the inclusion of canton fixed-effects. In contrast, we find a positive association between relative deprivation and mortality, which is robust to the inclusion of canton fixed-effects. Taken together, these results suggest that deprivation relative to those higher in a hierarchy is more detrimental to health than the overall dispersion of the hierarchy itself, within the Costa Rican context.
Relative Income Hypothesis; Mortality; Income Inequality; Relative Deprivation; Costa Rica; health inequalities
Reduction of health inequalities within and between countries is a global health priority, but little is known about the determinants of popular support for this goal. We used data from the World Health Survey to assess individual preferences for prioritizing reductions in health and health care inequalities. We used descriptive tables and regression analysis to study the determinants of preferences for reducing health inequalities as the primary health system goal. Determinants included individual socio-demographic characteristics (age, sex, urban residence, education, marital status, household income, self-rated health, health care use, satisfaction with health care system) and country-level characteristics [gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, disability-free life expectancy, equality in child mortality, income inequality, health and public health expenditures]. We used logistic regression to assess the likelihood that individuals ranked minimizing inequalities first, and rank-ordered logistic regression to compare the ranking of other priorities against minimizing health inequalities. Individuals tended to prioritize health system goals related to overall improvement (improving population health and health care responsiveness) over those related to equality and fairness (minimizing inequalities in health and responsiveness, and promoting fairness of financial contribution). Individuals in countries with higher GDP per capita, life expectancy, and equality in child mortality were more likely to prioritize minimizing health inequalities.
Inequality; equity; health inequalities; global health; resource allocation; prioritization
Inequities in the utilization of maternal health services impede progress towards the MDG 5 target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015. In Namibia, despite increasing investments in the health sector, the maternal mortality ratio has increased from 271 per 100,000 live births in the period 1991-2000 to 449 per 100,000 live births in 1998-2007. Monitoring equity in the use of maternal health services is important to target scarce resources to those with more need and expedite the progress towards the MDG 5 target. The objective of this study is to measure socio-economic inequalities in access to maternal health services and propose recommendations relevant for policy and planning.
Data from the Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2006-07 are analyzed for inequities in the utilization of maternal health. In measuring the inequities, rate-ratios, concentration curves and concentration indices are used.
Regions with relatively high human development index have the highest rates of delivery by skilled health service providers. The rate of caesarean section in women with post secondary education is about seven times that of women with no education. Women in urban areas are delivered by skilled providers 30% more than their rural counterparts. The rich use the public health facilities 30% more than the poor for child delivery.
Most of the indicators such as delivery by trained health providers, delivery by caesarean section and postnatal care show inequities favoring the most educated, urban areas, regions with high human development indices and the wealthy. In the presence of inequities, it is difficult to achieve a significant reduction in the maternal mortality ratio needed to realize the MDG 5 targets so long as a large segment of society has inadequate access to essential maternal health services and other basic social services. Addressing inequities in access to maternal health services should not only be seen as a health systems issue. The social determinants of health have to be tackled through multi-sectoral approaches in line with the principles of Primary Health Care and the recommendations of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health.
Economic changes and policy reforms, consistent with economic globalization, in New Zealand in the mid-1980s, combined with the recent global demand for dairy products, particularly from countries undergoing a 'nutrition transition', have created an environment where a proportion of the New Zealand population is now experiencing financial difficulty purchasing milk. This situation has the potential to adversely affect health.
Similar to other developed nations, widening income disparities and health inequalities have resulted from economic globalization in New Zealand; with regard to nutrition, a proportion of the population now faces food poverty. Further, rates of overweight/obesity and chronic diseases have increased in recent decades, primarily affecting indigenous people and lower socio-economic groups. Economic globalization in New Zealand has changed the domestic milk supply with regard to the consumer and may shed light on the link between globalization, nutrition and health outcomes. This paper describes the economic changes in New Zealand, specifically in the dairy market and discusses how these changes have the potential to create inequalities and adverse health outcomes. The implications for the success of current policy addressing chronic health outcomes is discussed, alternative policy options such as subsidies, price controls or alteration of taxation of recommended foods relative to 'unhealthy' foods are presented and the need for further research is considered.
Changes in economic ideology in New Zealand have altered the focus of policy development, from social to commercial. To achieve equity in health and improve access to social determinants of health, such as healthy nutrition, policy-makers must give consideration to health outcomes when developing and implementing economic policy, both national and global.
As the body of evidence linking disparities in the health of urban residents to disparate social, economic and environmental contexts grows, efforts to delineate the pathways through which broader social and economic inequalities influence health have burgeoned. One hypothesized pathway connects economic and racial and ethnic inequalities to differentials in stress associated with social and physical environments, with subsequent implications for health. Drawing on data from Detroit, Michigan, we examined contributions of neighborhood-level characteristics (e.g., poverty rate, racial and ethnic composition, residential stability) and individual-level characteristics (e.g., age, gender) to perceived social and physical environmental stress. We found that neighborhood percent African American was positively associated with perceptions of both social and physical environmental stress; neighborhood percent poverty and percent Latino were positively associated with perceived physical environmental stress; and neighborhood residential stability was negatively associated with perceived social environmental stress. At the individual level, whites perceived higher levels of both social and physical environmental stress compared to African American residents of the same block groups, after accounting for other variables included in the models. Our findings suggest the importance of understanding and addressing contributions of neighborhood structural characteristics to perceptions of neighborhood stress. The consistency of the finding that neighborhood racial composition and individual-level race influence perceptions of both social and physical environments suggests the continuing importance of understanding the role played by structural conditions and by personal and collective histories that vary systematically by race and ethnicity within the United States.
Perceived social environmental stress; Perceived physical environmental stress; Residential stability; Urban health
It is accepted knowledge that social and economic conditions – like education and income – affect population health. What remains uncertain is whether the degree of inequality in these conditions influences population health and if so, how. Some researchers who argue that inequalities are important, say there is a relationship between political economy, inequality and population health. Their evidence comes from comparative studies showing that countries with neo-liberal political economies generally have poorer population health outcomes than those with social or Christian democratic political economies. According to these researchers, neo-liberal political economies adopt labour market and welfare state policies that lead to greater levels of inequality and poorer population health outcomes for us all.
Australia has experienced considerable social and economic reforms over the last 20 years, with both major political parties increasingly adopting neo-liberal policies. Despite these reforms, population health outcomes are amongst the best in the world.
Australia appears to contest theories suggesting a link between political economy and population health. To progress our understanding, researchers need to concentrate on policy areas outside health – such as welfare, economics and industrial relations. We need to do longitudinal studies on how reforms in these areas affect levels of social and economic inequality, as well population health. We need to draw on social scientific methods, especially concerning case selection, to advance our understanding of casual relationships in policy studies. It is important to find out if, and why, Australia has resisted the affects of neo-liberalism on population health so we ensure our high standards are maintained in the future.
The 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion coincided with a preponderance of research, worldwide, on the social determinants of health and health inequities. Despite the establishment of a 'health inequities knowledge base', the precise roles for municipal governments in reducing health inequities at the local level remain poorly defined. The objective of this study was to monitor thematic trends in this knowledge base over time, and to track scholarly prescriptions for municipal government intervention on local health inequities.
Using meta-narrative mapping, four bodies of scholarly literature - 'health promotion', 'Healthy Cities', 'population health' and 'urban health' - that have made substantial contributions to the health inequities knowledge base were analyzed over the 1986-2006 timeframe. Article abstracts were retrieved from the four literature bodies using three electronic databases (PubMed, Sociological Abstracts, Web of Science), and coded for bibliographic characteristics, article themes and determinants of health profiles, and prescriptions for municipal government interventions on health inequities.
1004 journal abstracts pertaining to health inequities were analyzed. The overall quantity of abstracts increased considerably over the 20 year timeframe, and emerged primarily from the 'health promotion' and 'population health' literatures. 'Healthy lifestyles' and 'healthcare' were the most commonly emphasized themes in the abstracts. Only 17% of the abstracts articulated prescriptions for municipal government interventions on local health inequities. Such interventions included public health campaigns, partnering with other governments and non-governmental organizations for health interventions, and delivering effectively on existing responsibilities to improve health outcomes and reduce inequities. Abstracts originating from Europe, and from the 'Healthy Cities' and 'urban health' literatures, were most vocal regarding potential avenues for municipal government involvement on health inequities.
This study has demonstrated a pervasiveness of 'behavioural' and 'biomedical' perspectives, and a lack of consideration afforded to the roles and responsibilities of municipal governments, among the health inequities scholarly community. Thus, despite considerable research activity over the past two decades, the 'health inequities knowledge base' inadequately reflects the complex aetiology of, and solutions to, population health inequities.
Despite free healthcare to pregnant women and children under the age of six, access to healthcare has failed to secure better child health outcomes amongst all children of the country. There is growing evidence of socioeconomic gradient on child health outcomes
The objectives of this study were to measure inequalities in child mortality, HIV transmission and vaccination coverage within a cohort of infants in South Africa. We also used the decomposition technique to identify the factors that contribute to the inequalities in these three child health outcomes. We used data from a prospective cohort study of mother-child pairs in three sites in South African. A relative index of household socio-economic status was developed using principal component analysis. This paper uses the concentration index to summarise inequalities in child mortality, HIV transmission and vaccination coverage.
We observed disparities in the availability of infrastructure between least poor and most poor families, and inequalities in all measured child health outcomes. Overall, 75 (8.5%) infants died between birth and 36 weeks. Infant mortality and HIV transmission was higher among the poorest families within the sample. Immunisation coverage was higher among the least poor. The inequalities were mainly due to the area of residence and socio-economic position.
This study provides evidence that socio-economic inequalities are highly prevalent within the relatively poor black population. Poor socio-economic position exposes infants to ill health. In addition, the use of immunisation services was lower in the poor households. These inequalities need to be explicitly addressed in future programme planning to improve child health for all South Africans.
As reducing socio-economic inequalities in health is an important public health objective, monitoring of these inequalities is an important public health task. The specific inequality measure used can influence the conclusions drawn, and there is no consensus on which measure is most meaningful. The key issue raising most debate is whether to use relative or absolute inequality measures. Our paper aims to inform this debate and develop recommendations for monitoring health inequalities on the basis of empirical analyses for a broad range of developing countries.
Wealth-group specific data on under-5 mortality, immunisation coverage, antenatal and delivery care for 43 countries were obtained from the Demographic and Health Surveys. These data were used to describe the association between the overall level of these outcomes on the one hand, and relative and absolute poor-rich inequalities in these outcomes on the other.
We demonstrate that the values that the absolute and relative inequality measures can take are bound by mathematical ceilings. Yet, even where these ceilings do not play a role, the magnitude of inequality is correlated with the overall level of the outcome. The observed tendencies are, however, not necessities. There are countries with low mortality levels and low relative inequalities. Also absolute inequalities showed variation at most overall levels.
Our study shows that both absolute and relative inequality measures can be meaningful for monitoring inequalities, provided that the overall level of the outcome is taken into account. Suggestions are given on how to do this. In addition, our paper presents data that can be used for benchmarking of inequalities in the field of maternal and child health in low and middle-income countries.
Within Canada, many public health leaders have long identified the importance of improving the health of all Canadians especially those who face social and economic disadvantages. Future improvements in population health will be achieved by promoting health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Many Canadian documents, endorsed by government and public health leaders, describe commitments to improving overall health and promoting health equity. Public health has an important role to play in strengthening action on the social determinants and promoting health equity. Currently, public health services in British Columbia are being reorganized and there is a unique opportunity to study the application of an equity lens in public health and the contribution of public health to reducing health inequities. Where applicable, we have chosen mental health promotion, prevention of mental disorders and harms of substance use as exemplars within which to examine specific application of an equity lens.
This research protocol is informed by three theoretical perspectives: complex adaptive systems, critical social justice, and intersectionality. In this program of research, there are four inter-related research projects with an emphasis on both integrated and end of grant knowledge translation. Within an overarching collaborative and participatory approach to research, we use a multiple comparative case study research design and are incorporating multiple methods such as discourse analysis, situational analysis, social network analysis, concept mapping and grounded theory.
An important aim of this work is to help ensure a strong public health system that supports public health providers to have the knowledge, skills, tools and resources to undertake the promotion of health equity. This research will contribute to increasing the effectiveness and contributions of public health in reducing unfair and inequitable differences in health among population groups. As a collaborative effort between public health practitioners/decision makers and university researchers, this research will provide important understanding and insights about the implementation of the changes in public health with a specific focus on health equity, the promotion of mental health and the prevention of harms of substance use.
Health inequities; Health equity tools and frameworks; Public health services; Population health interventions; Public health policy; Determinants of health; Ethics and values; Complex adaptive systems; Intersectionality; Critical social justice
This article charts the historical development of the discipline of global mental health, whose goal is to improve access to mental health care and reduce inequalities in mental health outcomes between and within nations. The article begins with an overview of the contribution of four scientific foundations toward the discipline's core agenda: to scale up services for people with mental disorders and to promote their human rights. Next, the article highlights four recent, key events that are indicative of the actions shaping the discipline: the Mental Health Gap Action Programme to synthesize evidence on what treatments are effective for a range of mental disorders; the evidence on task shifting to nonspecialist health workers to deliver these treatments; the Movement for Global Mental Health's efforts to build a common platform for professionals and civil society to advocate for their shared goal; and the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health, which has identified the research priorities that, within the next decade, can lead to substantial improvements in the lives of people living with mental disorders. The article ends by examining the major challenges for the field, and the opportunities for addressing them in the future. (harv rev psychiatry 2012;20:6–12.)
developing countries; global mental health; scaling up