Taking action to achieve equity in health – examples from around the European Region

Ecaterina is a volunteer at a youth-friendly health centre in the Republic of Moldova. The centres offer an example of how countries have taken concrete action to address the 5 conditions necessary for healthier, more equitable and prosperous societies.

Countries of the WHO European Region have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to achieving equity in health, including by adopting the Health 2020 policy framework. Health 2020 highlights improving health for all and reducing health inequalities as strategic objectives.

By pairing this commitment with action, countries have made progress on improving health, lowering infant mortality and increasing average life expectancy. Almost a billion people in the Region can now expect to live to the age of 78, on average. Yet, despite these gains, health inequities persist within countries.

Today, the call for equity has become more urgent and has taken on a global scope. WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work seeks to ensure the highest attainable state of health for all and to extend universal health coverage, while the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development urges countries to “leave no one behind”.

Against this backdrop, WHO/Europe has organized the High-level Conference on Health Equity, taking place on 11–13 June 2019 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Hosted by the Government of Slovenia, the Conference will bring together delegates from Member States, international organizations and civil society to discuss solutions to reduce health inequities and accelerate progress towards better health, well-being and prosperity for all in the Region.

All countries in the Region have strengthened the integration of the determinants of health into wider government policies and plans. However, changes in policies that affect health determinants such as work and social protection – often introduced in response to the global financial crisis – have left more people at risk of income and employment insecurity. This has negative consequences for health and health equity.

The Conference in Slovenia will highlight the 5 essential conditions needed to live a healthy life:

  • good-quality and accessible health services;
  • income security and an appropriate, fair level of social protection;
  • decent living conditions;
  • good social and human capital; and
  • decent work and employment conditions.

Evidence and new tools presented at the Conference will show how addressing these conditions can transform the lives of those being left behind and simultaneously increase well-being and prosperity for the whole of society.

The Conference programme will offer insights into how, by shifting to integrated solutions and empowering approaches, countries can make real progress in reducing gaps in health and well-being – even in the short term.