Health and inequalities: the contribution of healthcare cooperatives


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Health and inequalities: the contribution of healthcare cooperatives

Cooperative members from all round the world gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, from 14 to 17 October for the International Conference «Cooperatives for Development»

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The event, organised by the International Cooperative Alliance in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, highlighted the substantial contribution made by cooperatives to economic, social and environmental development, with a distinctively sustainable approach in every business sector.

The cooperative movement has since 2016 been committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious agenda intended to do away with poverty, protect the planet and guarantee prosperity for all by 2030. An analysis of the progress achieved regarding this goal provided one of the central topics at the conference.

Dr Carlos Zarco, CEO of the Espriu Foundation, took part at the session entitled «How health and service cooperatives help reduce inequalities», explaining the intrinsic inverse correlation between health and inequalities. Numerous poor results for health indicators such as life expectancy, cardiac insufficiency rates and child mortality are closely linked to the highest levels of social and income inequality in any given population. Meanwhile, health is essential for economic growth and to reduce inequality and poverty.

«As enterprises driven by values, not simply by economic profit, cooperatives are in an unrivalled position to improve the social determinants of health and reduce inequalities, thereby contributing to the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals,» asserted Dr Zarco.

Two further examples of the potential of health cooperatives in the field of development were also presented at the session. Sarah Murungi recounted the experience of the Health Partners Uganda cooperative, which with the support of its US counterpart developed its own health service provision model in the West African country.

Meanwhile, Mirai Chatterjee detailed the success story of the Lok Swasthya Mandli cooperative, perhaps the first healthcare cooperative in India, which since 1990 with the support of the SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association) has been working in the field of primary care, health education and the distribution of medicines and India’s traditional medicine products.

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