The Swedish Commission for Equity in Health

The next step towards more equity in health in Sweden: how can we close the gap in a generation?

Sweden is a country in which public health, measured by means such as infant mortality or life expectancy, is very good, but in which inequalities in health and life expectancy are substantial. Therefore, more can and needs to be done, to both strengthen individuals’ own opportunities to act and generate resources, and to increase the public sector’s capacity to provide resources to individuals and families during stages of life or in situations in which their own resources or scope for action are insufficient. More equitable living conditions and opportunities to a good upbringing, a good education, a good job and a reasonable income will also leads to more equitable health. At the same time, it is probably more difficult to design and implement further measures for more equitable conditions and opportunities in Sweden, as we have already come quite far. Therefore, we do not believe that the path to more equity in health is via one or a few decisive measures, but rather via diligent efforts on many different issues in a broad spectrum of sectors. We stress, among other things, the importance of more equitable conditions in childhood, in the possibilities to aquire knowledge, in work and in economic terms. Thus, health inequalities do not begin with health related behaviours, and cannot be tackled through health and medical care alone. On the other hand, it is important to recognise that the opposite also applies; we cannot achieve more equity in health unless we address health related behaviours and work for more equitable health and medical care. Issues relating to equality and resource allocation are largely political. There has been clear political consensus in Sweden concerning the importance of striving for good and equitable health.