Gender, equity and human rights


Great expectations in Lao: a young coupe working side by side
WHO/Jim Holmes

Equity—refers to fair opportunity for everyone to attain their full health potential regardless of demographic, social, economic or geographic strata.

The progressive realization of the right to health involves a concerted and sustained effort to improve health across all populations and reduce inequities in the enjoyment health. Inequities are inequalities that are judged to be unfair, that is, both unacceptable and avoidable.

Equity must be reached both between and within countries and should be evident in the post-2015 development agenda through health inequality monitoring. Countries and programs need to disaggregate selected health indicators by key stratifiers including demographic characteristics (gender, age), place of residence (urban/rural, subnational), socioeconomic status (wealth, education), as well as other characteristics (migrant/minority status etc.)

Several measures of health inequalities have been developed. Health indicators and equity stratifiers can be obtained from a variety of sources, including:

  • Population-based sources, such as household surveys, censuses and vital registration systems;
  • Institutional sources, including resource records, service records and patient records;
  • Trial or project reports; and
  • Surveillance systems (which comprise both population-based data and institutional data).

To choose the most appropriate set of measures in a given situation, one needs to understand the distinctions among these measures and their implications, such as the use of absolute versus relative measures of inequity.

As a result of measuring and monitoring health inequities, countries should demonstrate:

  • A reduction in premature mortality by 50% among the poorest 20%/40% of the population (compared to 40% overall);
  • An increase in life expectancy for the poorest 20%/40% of the population by an additional two years over the national average increase.

In addition,

  • Goal number 10 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is clear: “Reduce inequality within and among countries”
  • Disaggregation of data in Universal Health Coverage and financial protection measures must take place.