Report Condemns Inequitable Access to Health Care
Health is a function of wealth, and it always will be in the absence of universal health care. Setting aside the differing approaches taken by Barack Obama and John McCain to health care access, the broader problem of inequality extends far beyond American borders.
A report commissioned by the World Health Organization "finds a majority of people in the world do not enjoy good health because of a toxic combination of poor social policies, unfair economics and bad politics." The chairman of the commission that produced the report, Sir Michael Marmot, says:
"Between countries, we have life expectancy differences of more than 40 years. A woman in Botswana can expect to live 43 years, in Japan 86 years... That is unnecessary. There is no good biological reason why that is the case," he said. "It arises because of the social conditions in which people are born, they grow, they live, they work and they age. And, because of the set of economic arrangements, the values of society that are responsible for those conditions."
Health problems are compounded for girls and women in countries that limit their educational opportunities. [More ...]
"That is quite wrong. It is quite wrong. We know that education is a key driver of the health of those girls when they become women. And, it is a key determinant of the health of their children when they become mothers," he said. "That infant and child deaths could be reduced to a high degree by investing in the education of women."
Also wrong -- morally wrong -- are systems of health care distribution that regard good health as the privilege of those who can afford medical care.
Where systematic differences in health are judged to be avoidable by reasonable action they are, quite simply, unfair. It is this that we label health inequity. Putting right these inequities – the huge and remediable differences in health between and within countries – is a matter of social justice. Reducing health inequities is ... an ethical imperative. Social injustice is killing people on a grand scale.
Executive summary (40 page pdf)
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