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Global Community Failing To Address Health Inequalities

“The goal of the WHO — amplified … in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — is to ensure the attainment by the entire world’s people of the highest possible level of health,” Calum Macpherson, director and vice president of the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation, writes in a Devex opinion piece. “A recent series of three articles in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine examined just how short we have fallen in achieving that ‘absolute right,’ and presents a challenging path toward doing so,” he states, noting, “Eminent physician Sir Kenneth Stuart and distinguished veterinarian and microbiologist Lord (Lawson) Soulsby, trace the long history of man’s efforts to attain universal access to a minimum level of health, from Aristotle to the formation — in April 1948 — of the World Health Organization, an anniversary celebrated as World Health Day.” He continues, “Here in Britain, four major reports over the past 30 years have found that, despite continuous improvement, the gap in health outcomes between those at the top and bottom of the social scale remains significant and, in some instances, continues to worsen.”

Macpherson notes “an increasing ‘globalization’ in the framing of our public health strategies,” and writes, “To be effective, we must think in terms of a uniform approach to improving health outcomes everywhere.” He states, “Lack of access to health is a function of poverty,” adding, “Factors besides poverty are also at work, including infrastructure, social services, education, housing, population planning, fresh water and electrical delivery, agriculture and livestock management — factors that lie well beyond the portfolios of the world’s existing departments and ministries of health.” He continues, “To meet these complex challenges, Stuart and Soulsby recommend that each country establish a ‘National Council for the Reduction of Health Inequalities,’ empowered to coordinate the efforts of governmental agencies as well as professional groups and civil society,” and adds, “Internationally, the array of issues and stakeholders is such that the coordination of the World Health Organization and its Global Commission on the Social Determinants of Health will be critical” (3/25).