7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Reducing health inequalities through global partnership and collaboration

Reducing health inequalities through global partnership and collaboration

Reducing health inequalities in the framework of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals: The need for stronger global health partnership and intersectoral collaboration

EDD17 - Replay - Reducing health inequalities through global partnership and collaboration

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 16:00 to 17:30

Key points

  • Health is a key element of equitable and sustainable development.
  • Universal healthcare for all can be achieved; it is merely a matter of political will.
  • The social determinants of poor health must be addressed.
  • Improving human health needs a holistic approach.


Health is central to people’s lives and is a key element of equitable and sustainable development, even in richer countries. The promotion of good health for all has been an international commitment for nearly 40 years, since the Declaration of Alma-Ata in 1978. But since then, the political will to bring it about has been lacking.

The world has the technical and financial means to provide universal health care. Providing such care would be a smart investment as research has shown that every US dollar spent on providing health care yields a dividend of $20 in growth. Some political leaders have seen health as an investment with no economic return, one panellist observed. But this is far from true. Many companies in Europe have realised that investing in the health of their workforce can yield important economic dividends. There is no reason why governments should not adopt the same approach.

Thanks to the World Health Organization (WHO), good health is understood as extending to social, physical and mental wellbeing rather than being limited to disease and infirmities. Human health needs a holistic approach in which social, cultural and behavioural factors play a big role. People with higher incomes enjoy better health in part because they also tend to adopt healthier lifestyles. Poorer people eat poorer food and tend to drink and smoke more.

These social and economic inequalities have intensified following the global financial crisis. Ensuring better and fairer healthcare means addressing these economic risk factors. For example, eight out of 10 smokers live in lower income countries. These countries are often afflicted by many other health problems, leading to a vicious circle of poor health, poverty and poor living conditions.

But much can achieved when there is strong political commitment. Since 1994, Rwanda has followed a policy of equal access to healthcare; these services now cover some 90% of the population. Immunisation coverage is 94%. Another example is Sri Lanka, where the government covers cancer care.

It is also important to understand the reason why some sectors of society are excluded from healthcare. Sometimes this is due to social and cultural reasons. In Ethiopia, for example, women are reluctant to use health centres where the healthcare providers are men. One solution is to deploy extension health workers. Another is to invest in e-health services. In Pakistan, women doctors have spearheaded the use of e-health services to reach women who otherwise might have no access to healthcare.

One of the surest ways of extending healthcare is to strengthen primary care. Primary healthcare workers are at the frontline of the battle for better health, for example, by preventing local disease outbreaks from turning into global emergencies. 


Governments need to consider good healthcare services a stimulant of economic growth. Personal health and economic health are often related.

Organised by

    Ilona Kickbusch
    Global Health Centre
    Diane Gashumba
    Minister of Health
    Government of the Republic of Rwanda
    Kalaba Nkonde
    EDD Young Leader, Zambia
    Vytenis Andriukaitis
    Commissioner for Health and Food Safety
    European Commission
    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
    Director-General Elect
    World Health Organization
    Alaa Murabit
    The Voice of Lybian Women
    Un Sustainable Development Goals Global Advocate
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