Tackling Health Inequities: Together we can be the change

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Beth Elinor Stinchcombe, a third-year medical student from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Whilst there has been an increase in life expectancy and various gains in health over the past century due to various scientific and public health advances this has been accompanied by an increase in societal and health inequities. Health inequities are defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘differences in health status or in the distribution of health resources between different population groups, arising from the social conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.’

Health inequities are evident and pervasive in all societies. This can be evidenced through examination of the London Underground Map, for example life expectancy decreases by 12 years between Lancaster Gate to Mile End, a 20-minute journey on the Central Line.

Health inequities affect all members of society, even the wealthy as research has shown that inequality reduces social cohesion, which can lead to more stress, fear, and insecurity for all members of society, which has an indirect impact upon health. So how can we tackle inequities in health and create meaningful change on this issue? As stated by Rudolf Virchow in the 1800s: ‘Medicine is a social science, and politics nothing but medicine at a larger scale.’

Disparities in health are a result of wider social issues. It can be easy to ask yourself how can I as an individual medical student, an individual person do anything about it? However, every single person and every single action create ripples that contribute to a collective movement, which ultimately creates an impact and facilitates change. No action is too small!

Medical students can start to tackle health inequities through education, advocacy, and action in their local communities. Educate yourself and others on the topic on health inequities and learn more about your local community, and the challenges individuals within the community face especially those who are most excluded from society. Additionally, you could campaign for social justice topics such as health inequities to be included on your medical curriculum if it isn’t already. Also, perhaps you can collaborate with others to advocate for governmental action and the development of a cross-government strategy in your country to address the causes of health and other inequities.

Arguably the best way to tackle health inequities is to take meaningful action in your local community after understanding the needs of local population, listening to them and the issues they face. Taking part in a local community project has a tangible impact on those that need it most, whether it’s helping set up a local food bank or volunteering at a homeless shelter.

Communities need more than just medication to be healthy; they need to be heard and listened to. Medical students can help achieve this and reduce health inequities by incorporating a public health viewpoint towards medicine. Now more than ever the world requires well rounded, culturally sensitive medical professionals who can address the health needs of an increasingly diverse society. 

About the author

Beth Elinor Stinchcombe is a third-year medical student from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. She has a bachelor’s degree in Human Sciences from University College London. Prior to medical school, she worked in public health to tackle regional public health issues and as part of the UK’s national COVID-19 response. She is currently Director of International Affairs at Students for Global Health UK, the largest student-led network in the UK and national member organisation of IFMSA. Her interests include child and adolescent health, health inequalities, the social and environmental determinants of health and wild swimming!


  1. […] Tackling Health Inequities: Together we can be the change – The European Sting […]

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