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Health inequalities are differences in health status between different population groups such as age or socio-economic status. Differences in the social, economic and environmental determinants of health, along with inequalities in accessing high quality healthcare, affect a significant proportion of the world population. The World Health Organisation estimates that 400 million people still do not have access to one of seven ‘essential health services’, such as drugs and vaccines. There are large health inequalities both between and within countries. In 2015, average life expectancy in the UK was 81.2 years, compared with Japan (the highest at 83.7 years) and Sierra Leone (the lowest at 50.1 years).

Key summary points covered in detail in this briefing include:

  • More people have access to essential health services now than at any time in history, but profound inequalities persist.
  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages” and includes 13 targets to tackle health inequalities.
  • Implementing SDG3 (and the other 16 SDGs) requires access to good quality data to assess progress towards meeting targets.
  • One of the targets is Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to ensure that all people who need health services receive them.

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