Health inequities are avoidable inequalities in health between groups of people within countries and between countries. These inequities arise from inequalities within and between societies. Social and economic conditions and their effects on people's lives determine their risk of illness and the actions taken to prevent them becoming ill or treat illness when it occurs.
The poorest of the poor, around the world, have the worst health. Within countries, the evidence shows that in general the lower an individual's socioeconomic position the worse their health. There is a social gradient in health that runs from top to bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum. This is a global phenomenon, seen in low, middle and high income countries. The social gradient in health means that health inequities affect everyone.
The global context affects how societies prosper through its impact on international relations and domestic norms and policies. These in turn shape the way society, both at national and local level, organizes its affairs, giving rise to forms of social position and hierarchy, whereby populations are organized according to income, education, occupation, gender, race/ethnicity and other factors. Where people are in the social hierarchy affects the conditions in which they grow, learn, live, work and age, their vulnerability to ill health and the consequences of ill health.
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