Health equity, a key priority of regional development strategies

A series of interviews conducted with focal points of the Regions for Health Network (‎RHN) indicate that achieving health equity is central to improving health and essential to sustainable development. Since 1993, the NHN has helped regions accelerate improvements in the health of the population. The Network plays a key role in the search for equitable solutions that leave no one behind.

The WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development based in Venice, Italy, has played a leading role in helping Member States monitor progress towards more equitable healthcare. The Venice office spoke with three regional focal points to better understand how their region is tackling health inequalities and how WHO/Europe can help them achieve their strategic health goals.

Sweden tackles health inequalities in development strategies

Like many other countries in the region, Sweden has included actions to address health inequalities in its development strategies to build fairer and healthier societies. For example, in the Västra Götaland region, reducing health inequalities is a goal shared by many sectors, including health care, environment, culture, external relations, sports and human rights. the man.

“Our national public health strategy is focused on achieving health equity. The human rights sector is also committed to leaving no one behind and reaching the most vulnerable,” explained Charlotta Sundin-Andersson, Regional Development Officer for Public Health.

Bulgaria improves the lives of children with disabilities

Since the 1990s, the region of Varna, located in the northeast of Bulgaria, has led the way in improving the lives of children with disabilities.

“In the early 1990s, a group of mothers of disabled children registered one of the first non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Varna. During the same period, Ivan Stancioff, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, established the Karin Dom Foundation, donated his family home and decided to provide financial support to improve the lives of children with disabilities,” said the Associate Professor Klara Dokova of the Faculty of Public Sciences. Health, Department of Social Medicine and Organization of Health Care, Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria.

These efforts have resulted in an extensive network of NGOs across the Region, covering persons with disabilities of all age groups. The Regional Government has also delegated to the Network various services for people with disabilities, including part-time child care, home services and visits.

The community has also found ways to support young people in social institutions who are over 18 and no longer receive financial support from the government. The Social Teahouse, for example, is the first sheltered workplace for young people from social institutions and complex social backgrounds. It gives them tools and allows them to grow personally and professionally and live an independent life.

Belgium focuses on socio-economic status

In some regions, health equity is addressed in practice, although not mentioned in policy. For example, the Flemish region of Belgium has an overall strategy that defines actions for different target groups covering the most vulnerable, including marginalized communities and young people.

“The only way to improve people’s health is to look at the social determinants. Therefore, the region has implemented the multi-annual goal that “every Flemish citizen will be healthier by 2025”. This means focusing on diseases and the way people live and their environment. Therefore, it is motivated by health as an investment,” explained Solvejg Wallyn, policy officer for international health issues in Flanders.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment and the Ministry of Education work closely together to harmonize actions to ensure a healthier and more equitable life. In addition, the regional government cooperates with partner organizations on health promotion, for example with NGOs offering homeless people access to healthcare, regular medical checks and vaccinations.

Achieving equity in health is one of the main demands of the three pillars of the European work program 2020-2025 – “United action for better health”: better health and well-being; more people benefiting from universal health coverage; and more people better protected from health emergencies. WHO/Europe will continue to work closely with Member States, providing them with the analysis, tools and evidence needed to ensure a fairer and better future for all.

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