What role for health professionals to address health inequalities?

This week senior officials and experts from national and regional public health bodies met at the EuroHealthNet Annual Seminar and General Council Meeting in Madrid to debate what is needed to reduce health inequalities. They determined that systemic change – and transformation of the health system – are key to enabling health and other professionals to adapt their roles to work for better health and wellbeing for all. Following the meeting, the EuroHealthNet General Council agreed on a statement which summarises what actions are already being taken, and what else should be done.

The one-day seminar, co-hosted by EuroHealthNet and the Spanish Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare, centred on the role of health professionals in achieving health equity.

“The reduction of social and health inequalities is a priority in the design of this Ministry’s policies,” said María Luisa Carcedo, the Minister of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare. “We know that the way in which health provision and health policies are organised can be very powerful tools in the creation of fairer and more equitable societies.”

Designing the optimal conditions for health equity and wellbeing requires enabling positive and just environments where health is promoted through integrated and community-based services that benefit both the professionals and the people they serve. The effective involvement and engagement of health professionals is crucial, coupled with the work of the wider public health and social workforce, including those working in the public, private, and third sectors.

“Wider and rapidly changing determinants of health such as climate change, commercial determinants, and political factors influence all of us and all professions; closer cooperation and networking is therefore key. This is urgently needed at global and European levels, as well as between European countries and regions” said Mojca Gabrijelčič Blenkuš, President of EuroHealthNet.

The need to prioritise and direct funding to health promotion and prevention remains clear. The EuroHealthNet partnership is taking action. New ways to improve health and reduce inequalities are being identified and developed, while new tools and guidance on effective financing for health promotion and prevention are available.

With the statement, the EuroHealthNet partnership commits to:

  • Advocating evidence-informed improvements for policies, programmes, and activities towards health equity.
  • Mobilising collective knowledge, skills, and experience, including through training programmes for health professionals.
  • Engaging with all relevant sectors and professions and foster system transformations which support health equity.
  • Calling on all actors in Europe to promote and implement wellbeing, cohesion, social justice and equity, and to enhance health literacy in all professions.
  • Recommending the use of the European Semester to stimulate more equitable and sustainable policies and actions.
  • Highlighting the need to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into all activities.
  • Urging all health and social actors to engage with national and international programmes for better training, professional development, and (digital) health literacy skills for all.
  • Encouraging the more effective use of improved, ethical, and transparent data collection and application for policy, practice and training.