Both in New Zealand and globally, our ability to address equity challenges in health has significantly improved over the past decades. In the Western world life expectancy has increased for all populations. However persistent disparities in health access, quality of services and outcomes remain. In Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori and Pacific and those in low socioeconomic groups remain the most disadvantaged.
The Government has mandated the Ministry of Health to take a bold approach that delivers tangible changes to system behaviour with measurable results in a three to five-year horizon. An approach that operates on a repeating cycle based around deepening the understanding of equity gaps, shifting thinking about where priorities for investment of time and resources lie, followed by increasing direct action to address inequalities is being developed.
This paper traces the beginnings of health equity and the philosophical and ethical foundations that sit behind it. It looks at a selection of the international and local literature to help understand definitions of equity. It considers how framing and thinking about the concept of equity and approaches to addressing equity have evolved, and how progress to address equity can be measured.