Goal Of Health Equity and How to Achieve It

Goal Of Health Equity and How to Achieve It

Health Equity

Healthcare organizations and public health policymakers have struggled to overcome health disparity for decades. While it may seem like healthcare services are rolled out to the masses equally, the reality is nothing short of appalling. For this reason, global healthcare leaders have advocated for equal rights to healthcare, leading to the inception of health equity.

Health equity aims to ensure that everyone in the community has equitable access to healthcare services. And that every individual is socially, physically, and mentally healthy. Currently, access to healthcare services is highly inequitable, meaning that people across society do not have equal access to healthcare. For example, individuals belonging to the higher socioeconomic classes are more likely to access healthcare services than individuals in the lower socioeconomic classes.

This disparity is a significant reason for quality healthcare services remaining unaffordable to the lower socioeconomic classes. These disparities are often a product of the social determinants of health which have to be addressed to achieve health equity. Besides addressing these, training the healthcare workforce and advocating equitable access to healthcare is crucial to achieving health equity.

Now that we’ve discussed the goal of health equity, let’s see how to achieve it:

Training of Healthcare Workforce

To achieve global health equity, we must highlight the impetus that needs to be placed on developing and training the healthcare workforce. Healthcare organizations worldwide need to train their employee base to offer quality healthcare services to the masses irrespective of their background, creed, ethnicity, and so forth.

Rolling out upskilling initiatives will prove worthwhile in this regard, especially for frontline workers like nurses, physicians, and surgeons. For instance, encouraging nurses to enroll in RN to BSN degree programs will serve this purpose significantly. Nurses can devise strategies and policies to curb health equity and promote an inclusive and diverse workplace environment by pursuing such programs.

What’s more, these programs cater to the needs of professional nurses by designing distant learning programs that working nurses can accommodate in their busy schedules.

Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

The World Health Organization, in its essence, defines social determinants of health as the sociodemographic conditions an individual is a part of in the community. Categorically speaking, there are five core social determinants of health:

1) Economic Stability of individuals mainly include their employment status, household income, and expenditure, and healthcare expenditure

2) Neighborhood and Physical Environment of individuals which accounts for the quality of housing, neighborhood safety, and physical accessibility to the area

3) Accessibility of Quality Education to individuals specifically, to children

4) Social and Community Context of individuals include the more extensive social system the individual is a part of and includes the social norms and practices that govern health-seeking behaviors

5) Accessibility to Quality Healthcare is the most direct contributor to health equity and can be addressed by healthcare organizations quickly.

Making Healthcare Services Equitable

Various healthcare facilities unequally provide their services to the masses. To address this, healthcare organizations must devise programs that cater to low-income households and ensure that people from those households can access essential healthcare services. The Robin Hood approach is viable in this regard, whereby revenue earned from high-income individuals is used to finance services for low-income individuals. This approach ensures that quality healthcare services are accessible to all income-tiers of the populace.

Likewise, the pandemic and the following lockdowns have paved the way for mobile and online healthcare programs. These approaches have yielded positive results, such as setting up mobile testing facilities for COVID-19 and online awareness programs. These programs need to be scaled up to increase access to medicine and healthcare services to far-flung areas. Medical vans consisting of healthcare staff, equipment, and medicine are a potential consideration for increasing access to COVID-19 and other vaccinations alongside essential health services. Institutes can even gender these programs by incorporating maternal, neonatal, child, and reproductive health services to address the inequitable access of women and children to healthcare services.

To cater to a different population segment youth, online services would be an excellent strategy to increase youths access to quality healthcare. Organizations can set up websites, helplines, and apps to cater to youths medical issues, raise awareness of critical health problems, and connect them to service delivery points.

Healthcare Programs to Reduce Inequities

Healthcare organizations must invest in community-based research for developing programs that can address inequities. Such initiatives are what we call evidence-based programming. In this approach, organizations first conduct research to understand the healthcare outcomes and social determinants of health in a particular context and subsequently utilize the studys findings to develop programs. Research has shown that these programs are tailored to societal needs and yield a more significant positive response from the beneficiaries.

Another equitable programming strategy utilizes participatory reflection and analysis (PRA) tools to mobilize communities for promoting healthcare services. In this regard, Behavior Change Communication (BCC) is a communication strategy that emphasizes adopting healthy behaviors in communities. Healthcare organizations should utilize BCC to conduct community awareness programs to improve peoples attitudes towards health-seeking behaviors. BCC programs often use participatory tools that encourage participation and dialogue between communities and organizations. Healthcare workers implement these programs by conducting household visits and organizing awareness seminars at the community level. As a result, it increases community engagement and people’s trust in healthcare programs, reducing inequitable access to healthcare services.

Advocacy and Collaboration

High-level advocacy catalyzes the process of policy development. Healthcare organizations should advocate for these approaches to the governments and stakeholders to promote equitable programming and health equity. It allows them to highlight such issues and strategies on prominent public forums for debate and institutionalization. While changing policy is often unrealistic, bringing the issues and approaches to the public forum invigorates academic, sectoral, and public interest, which bodes well for healthcare providers and beneficiaries.

Collaboration of partners from across sectors is necessary to achieve the goal of health equity as no organization or industry on its own has the resources or scope to achieve the goal.

Final Thoughts

The goal of health equity is that every individual, regardless of their differences, should be able to access healthcare services without any hurdles. WHO has been promoting universal health coverage as a goal globally, but most countries are far from achieving it. These strategies can be considered by healthcare leaders, researchers, and the public, at large, as steps to achieving health equity. For this purpose, healthcare organizations can train their workforce, build capacity and simultaneously address social determinants of health. They can also increase the provision and accessibility of equitable healthcare services while developing programs to reduce inequities. Lastly, they can advocate politically and socially.

for adopting these strategies at a larger scale and promote collaboration amongst partners across sectors to implement these approaches.

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