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Social inequalities, regional disparities and health inequity in North African countries

Author(s): Boutayeb Abdesslam | Helmert Uwe

Journal: International Journal for Equity in Health
ISSN 1475-9276

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 23;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Background During the last decades, North African countries have substantially improved economic, social and health conditions of their populations in average. In all countries, human development in general and life expectancy, literacy and per capita income in particular have increased. However, improvement was not equally shared between groups of different milieu, regions or level of income. Social inequalities and health inequity have persisted or even worsened. Data are generally scarce and few studies were devoted to this topic in North Africa as a region. In this paper, we carry out a comparative study on the achievements of these countries, not only in terms of human development and its components but also in terms of inequalities' reduction and health equity. Method This study is based on data available for comparison between North African countries. The main data sources are provided by reports released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, surveys such as Demographic Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and finally recent papers published on equity in different countries of the region. Results and discussion There is no doubt that education, health and human development in general have improved in North Africa during the last decades. Improvement was, however, uneven and unequally enjoyed by different socioeconomic groups. Indeed, each country included in this study shows large urban-rural disparities, discrepancies between advantaged and disadvantaged regions and cities; and unacceptable differences between rich and poor. Health inequity is particularly seen through access to health services and infant mortality. Conclusion During the last decades, North African decision makers have endeavoured to improve social and economic conditions of their populations. Globally, health, education and living standard in general have substantially improved in average. However, North African countries have still a long way to go to reduce social inequalities and health inequity at different levels: rural-urban, advantaged-marginalised regions and cities, between groups of different level of income and wealth. The challenge for the next decade is not only to improve economic, social and health conditions in average but also and mainly to reduce avoidable inequalities in parallel.

Tango Jona
Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona

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