Health justice: our new focus for global health investigations

If coronavirus has highlighted one thing, it’s how unequal access to healthcare is – both within a particular country and between different countries across the globe.

For example, in one paper published as coronavirus emerged in January 2020, researchers found wide disparities in the number of critical care beds available in different countries. Bangladesh had just 0.7 beds per 100,000 people; China 3.6 and Taiwan 28.5. In another study, poorer counties of the US recorded larger numbers of coronavirus cases than more affluent areas in the very early stages of the pandemic.

These inequalities don’t occur overnight. Many are insidious. They are the result of longstanding systems and structures that perpetuate discrimination, including around age, disability, race, income, education, sex and gender.

Over the coming months, health justice will be one of the major focuses of the Bureau’s Global Health team. We want to do cross-border, global investigations that highlight health inequalities and suggest means to reduce or remove them.

What is “health justice”? I particularly like how the San Francisco AIDS Foundation describes it:

“Health justice is more than equality in health: It is about lessening the existing gaps in who has access to health. The health “disparities” that we see for people of color, people with less access to wealth, people who use substances and others will not exist when we achieve health justice.

If you think about who has access to “health” now, what comes to mind? Who gets to be healthy in our society – and who gets left behind?”

We’re interested in how you have autonomy over your body and the circumstances in which your choices and freedoms may be overruled.

We’re interested in the obstacles you face in getting the medicines and care you need.

We’re interested in the systemic problems that create and maintain these unfair and damaging discrepancies.

If our journalism is going to be impactful in helping facilitate change on these issues then we need to involve communities of experience and expertise from the start of our reporting. That’s why we’re very excited to announce that we’re setting up a new Health Justice Hub to run alongside our investigations on this theme.

We want to bring together a group of people from across the world, with a range of different perspectives, backgrounds and life experiences, to help inform our cross-border health justice investigations and build new ways of working together.

Got a tip?

We're also eager to hear tips, pitches or suggestions on anything related to health justice.

Get in touch with our Global Health editor, Chrissie Giles

Header image: A newborn at a hospital in Indonesia, wearing PPE. Credit: Getty Images

This blog is part of our Global Health project, which has a number of funders including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. None of our funders have any influence over the Bureau’s editorial decisions or output.