Plenary 3 Reducing disparities through health justice
Reducing disparities through health justice
- Sudhir ANAND Centennial and Visiting Professor, International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science
- Somsak CHUNHARAS President, National Health Foundation of Thailand
- Abhisit VEJJAJIVA Former Prime Minister of Thailand
- Libby LEE Under Secretary for Health, The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government
The plenary discussion on reducing disparities through health justice began with Prof Sudhir Anand, Centennial and Visiting Professor of the International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, sharing a comprehensive overview of the dimensions of the issue, including process fairness and comparative justice. He also clarified the nuanced differences between health equality and equity and spoke of how health justice sits at a broader, more holistic level above both.
Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva, Former Prime Minister of Thailand, amplified the need to focus on health injustice as it not only affects other components of a person’s life including their education and work, but also has wider implications on a country’s economic growth and community peace. Dr Somsak Chunharas, President of National Health Foundation of Thailand, noted that fairness is about improving access and coverage to healthcare and enabling policymakers, providers, and patients to deploy and receive these services.
The panellists then reflected that Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is a good starting point towards this ideal, but far from the complete answer. For example, Dr Chunharas noted that justice means deepening patient-provider relationships and enhancing the patient experience. Mr Vejjajiva shared that multi-stakeholder collaborations bridging government, civil society, and philanthropy can be a powerful tool for driving stronger health justice. For example, during COVID-19, the government enabled honorary members to serve as health volunteers and provide 1-1 guidance to families, with one volunteer looking after 15 families.
Dr Libby Lee, Under Secretary for Health of The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, then encouraged the panel to think about how philanthropy could play a role; the panel discussed that philanthropy can be most additive by promoting innovation for health justice (e.g., fairer vaccine distribution mechanisms), driving advocacy around health justice with senior policymakers, and sharing learnings to build discourse around how to reimagine our health systems using a justice lens.