Equity and social contexts

This next theme is on the importance of society and context when thinking about health. The importance of country context is central to thinking about improving health outcomes, especially in the transferability of health care solutions from one place to another. We need to ask questions about a country to better understand its needs. For example, how much of the population lives in rural areas? What type of infrastructure is available? Who gets educated and to what level? How does the health system function? What is the influence of law and policy? Is there political will and leadership for change?.

Reflecting on our life cycle approach we have repeatedly heard about the importance of empowering girls and women: having the freedom to make safe, healthy choices, having voice and social acceptance, and having access to mechanisms for accountability. And this links to the topic of vulnerability which has also been emphasised, including socio-economic disadvantage which can accumulate from conception through childhood and into adulthood. Several mechanisms can lead to this situation from low levels of awareness, restriction of movement because of traditions and norms or because of being in areas with poor accessibility, legal restrictions, cultural or language barriers between families and health staff, or vulnerability because of inability to afford the cost of medical care.

The era of the Sustainable Development Goals challenges us to acknowledge the influence of issues beyond the health system on health outcomes. We heard in Step 5.14 about the shifts in society that require new thinking for child health – changes in the stability or economics of countries, urbanization, population growth and the epidemiological transition as non-communicable diseases become responsible for a greater proportion of ill health. In the next two videos we hear from experts about two such issues in more detail. First on the topic of the environment and its link to nutrition and health, and second on the topic of health care delivery in humanitarian crisis.

Are there issues about society and context where you live that you’d like to highlight as important?

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This article is from the free online course:

Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: from Evidence to Action

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine