Gaps in child mortality between rich and poor countries are unacceptably wide and in some areas are becoming wider, as are the gaps between wealthy and poor children within most countries. Poor children are more likely than their better-off peers to be exposed to health risks, and they have less resistance to disease because of undernutrition and other hazards typical in poor communities. These inequities are compounded by reduced access to preventive and curative interventions. Even public subsidies for health frequently benefit rich people more than poor people. Experience and evidence about how to reach poor populations are growing, albeit largely through small-scale case studies. Successful approaches include those that improve geographic access to health interventions in poor communities, subsidised health care and health inputs, and social marketing. Targeting of health interventions to poor people and ensuring universal coverage are promising approaches for improvement of equity, but both have limitations that necessitate planning for child survival and effective delivery at national level and below. Regular monitoring of inequities and use of the resulting information for education, advocacy, and increased accountability among the general public and decision makers is urgently needed, but will not be sufficient. Equity must be a priority in the design of child survival interventions and delivery strategies, and mechanisms to ensure accountability at national and international levels must be developed.
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