The right to health is essential for sustainable development, better quality of life and welfare for all. The contribution of health systems to social cohesion depends in large part on the equity of these systems in a broad sense; that is, it is not limited strictly to access to health services but also to equity, which is understood to be a desirable and feasible degree of equality in the de-facto enjoyment of the right to health in which many other components play a role, such as social or environmental determinants.
In the past decade, equity has taken its place at the centre of the international agenda in terms of the right to health, and a majority of countries, both in Europe and Latin America, have incorporated it as a guiding principle in their national policies. The challenge now is to make this effective, as, despite the progress made in expanding health systems, inequality continues to determine the access of different groups to healthcare services.
Health equity contemplates three dimensions: equity in the health status of individuals, access to services and treatments, and financing. The EUROsociAL programme assists with policies that address the first two. It does this by supporting initiatives to measure and monitor health equity, with special emphasis on the social determinants of inequity, on the one hand. And on the other, by addressing the issue of improving equity in access to health services in two of its components: human resources, a key piece in incorporating equity in the design and implementation of health policies, and medicines, by supporting rational use policies.