SIG on Health Equity annual report

This report highlights health equity activities from September 2019 to April 2020.

On October 9th 2019, the American Academy of Family Physicians held a Preconference on Health Equity called “A Call to Action on Health Equity” on the day before their annual Global Health Summit. This was the first time they have held a preconference and we were thrilled that its major focus was on health equity and that several members of our WONCA health equity SIG were able to participate. This was also just a few days prior to WONCA’s Rural Health Conference so there were family doctors from our wider WONCA community from around the globe also in attendance. The summit assembled global stakeholders with the aim of increasing knowledge and promoting engagement among thought leaders in the fields of medicine, public health, education, health services research, social service organizations, and other community members. Participants networked with colleagues and collectively developed plans that would lead to actions in their local communities to achieve health equity. The summit concluded with a service activity to provide 900 hygiene kits to a local non-profit organization.

Major highlights of the preconference include:

1. Health Equity Across Nations panel – this is a continuing series of lectures that started several years ago at the WONCA World meeting in Brazil in 2016, continued in Seoul in 2018 and have now featured over 12 speakers from 10 countries.
 The 2019 panelists included:
Dr. Jorge Hidalgo Chavez – Spain
Dr. Joy Mugambi – Kenya
Dr. Victor Ng – Canada
Dr. Kim Yu – United States - Moderator

2. WONCA Polaris developed a Health Equity Declaration during the AAFP’s Global Health Summit in September 2019 which included:

“The young doctors of Polaris:

● Recognize that health equity is directly impacted by discrimination with regards to race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disability and other factors and these factors are interconnected and must be addressed simultaneously to affect change.
● Recognize the direct effects that safe housing, clean water, air quality, and broader environmental justice issues have on health outcomes and that these issues disproportionately affect lower income communities and communities of ethnic minorities.
● Recognize that traumatic events, exposure to violence and crime, sexual assault, and abuse contribute to mental and physical health inequities and that upstream measures to prevent these adverse experiences, especially for children, are critical to attain equity.
● Recognize that ensuring high quality education for all children and improving general health literacy are necessary tools to improve health equity.
● Believe that access to excellent primary care including mental health care and substance abuse treatment are important to create health equity and therefore family physicians should advocate to eliminate financial, geographic, and any other barriers to this care.
● Recognize that numerous systematic interventions and policy changes throughout societies and governments are crucial to achieve health equity.
● Recognize that advocacy is an essential skill set required by family physicians to improve health equity and that as young family physicians we have a responsibility to speak for those who cannot and to build partnerships to improve health equity across borders.
● Assert that all family physicians should recognize health inequity and be able to evaluate contributing factors leading to inequity. We additionally assert that all medical schools and post graduate training programs should offer formal instruction on the principles and evaluation of health equity.
● Uphold that equity is vital to achieving health for all communities and therefore that healthcare providers and systems should strive to achieve equity in their practice organizations and care delivery.

Current Projects:

Establish WONCA Excellence in Health Equity Awards.
• These regional awards will recognize work done by physicians, organizations or member countries that are working on Health Equity projects. Recognize the work of those in Health Equity and encourage members from around the world to engage in Health Equity work that could be disseminated on social media or local media to show the work of Family Doctors for their communities.
• We hope to also have Health Equity awards dedicated to Rural Communities or Rural practice, Women, Migrant Health, LGBTQ and Family Violence, to be able to collaborate with those SIGs and Working parties.
• Similar to Athena Swan awards that are for women in STEM they help promote engagement and work in health equity at a regional level elevating the work done by family physicians, SIGs or WPs, or country or regional work by family doctors in health equity.
• These awards will be reviewed by a voluntary subcommittee of our SIG HE, to ensure fair representation from each region with criteria developed for each health equity award. Awardees will be recognized every two years, but there will be no numenary or financial award to keep cost of this program to an absolute minimum.

Host WONCA’s first International Online Virtual Health Equity conference to
• Include all regions of WONCA members, both in panelists/faculty and attendees,
• Serve to spearhead initiatives on a country, state and local level, with family physicians at the helm of these projects, and
• Educate on best practices in Health Equity
• Create a declaration on Health Equity for the SIG HE.
It is our hope, if approved by WONCA, to hold this International Online Virtual Health Equity conference

Health Equity Resource page
• Collate Health Equity resources
• Post the resources found for each region on Health Equity to help family doctors from around the world find information on health equity topics
• These resources could be posted on WONCA SIG HE webpage

Growth and Community
• Current membership is at 320.
• Continue to grow and increase member engagement in the SIG – through social media and webinars. SIG HE Executive to meet at least two to four times a year online and via email/social media.
• Elect students/residents/YDMs from each region to the SIG HE by WONCA World Conference 2020 – Dr. Romero Santiago (N. America) joined our SIG HE executive team. We will identify more students/residents/YDMs from each region by November, 2020.
• Dr. Vivi Sachs, our YDM member, assumed the role as Secretary to take over from Dr. Veronica Svetas

The WONCA Health Equity SIG is working with Fund for Global Health to ensure that appropriations for Global Health are earmarked for Primary Care since primary care is the strongest foundation to a robust health care system globally.


It is our hope that during this COVID crisis, the SIG on Health Equity will be able to participate in webinars to discuss the tremendous disparities that exist both in COVID disease burden and mortality within different demographic groups and to seek opportunities to address the growing health inequalities.

We look forward to continued work of the WONCA Health Equity SIG and thank WONCA for its continued support. In these COVID times, it is ever apparent the vital role family doctors play in ensuring health equity for all. Thank you to all our health equity SIG members who champion causes to improve care for patients and communities around the globe. May we stay safe and continue to fight for the values we hold dear.

Note: the SIG on Health Equity conducted a WONCA webinar on September 20th, 2020 which can be viewed here

Kim Yu,
Convener, WONCA Health Equity SIG