Universal health coverage is one of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Although the European Union is close to universal population coverage, many subgroups of the population face inequalities and considerable barriers that impede access to healthcare resources and services and affect their health and wellbeing. Social and income status were the most significant barriers to accessing healthcare and having positive health outcomes. Frail elderly, people who are mentally ill, people who are homeless, and undocumented migrant groups face even more complex barriers to access. [1]  

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the impact of pre-existing health inequalities in European countries. People with lower education and income levels encountered higher risks of infection, higher excess mortality rates, higher risks of developing severe COVID-19, as well as higher hospital admission rates, in the case of migrants. Young people, older people, people with underlying health conditions, people with disabilities, and women were also disproportionately affected by mental health burden. The pandemic has also disrupted access to non-COVID services for many patients across Europe, including causing delays in elective procedures, such as hip replacement, preventing access to timely cancer diagnosis and treatment, which will lead to more negative patient outcomes and lower patient satisfaction rates. [2]

For health systems to respond to ongoing and emerging health challenges, they must better address existing disparities in access to health services and ensure that they are not exacerbating or creating inequalities that leave certain population groups behind. The questions then are:

  • How can health systems ensure equitable access to health services, and achieve the delivery of better quality of care and better health outcomes? 
  • What are the new developments in models of healthcare delivery? 
  • What is the role of digital healthcare as a catalyst to improve health equality and equity?

Have you carried out research focusing on improving health access and outcomes? Would you be interested in sharing your results with the health management community? Then don’t forget to submit your abstract before Friday, 4 March at 17.00 CET. You will find all the relevant information for the Call of Abstracts here.

[1] European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (2021) Gaps in coverage and access in the European Union.
[2] European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) (2021) The State of Health in the EU: Companion Report 2021.