In recent years, public health experts have increasingly embraced the principle of "proportionate universalism" proposed by epidemiologist Sir Michael Marmot. This principle states that healthcare and social resources should be universally available but allocated proportionally across the social gradient to reduce inequities.
This key tenet that more resources should be directed towards those with greater socioeconomic needs is designed to directly counter the impact of disadvantage on health outcomes. Several recent reports have demonstrated that healthcare inequalities are increasingly prevalent in our society and the crises that have characterised the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the urgency of proportionate universalism as an approach that refocuses efforts on prevention and early intervention for marginalized groups.
Proportionate universalism in preventive healthcare
Preventive care is essential to enacting proportionate universalism. By expanding access to screening, immunization, health education, and lifestyle programs, we can reduce risk factors and intervene early before diseases progress. Targeted efforts to make preventive services more accessible in underserved communities can mitigate inequities.
For instance, smoking cessation programs tailored to disadvantaged populations can curb tobacco addiction and its health consequences. Screening programmes can identify health concerns in the asymptomatic population so that early intervention can achieve better outcomes. Proactive primary care helps manage chronic conditions like diabetes before complications arise.
But few of these programmes, as they are implemented today, have integrated the principles of proportionate universalism into their service design. There is a one-size-fits-all approach to preventive healthcare that assigns resources equally, regardless of socio-economic status, and only considers health inequalities as a retrospective, analytical exercise.
How Appt Health can help
Digital health platforms like Appt Health are making preventive healthcare more accessible for everyone but are putting disproportionate resources into understanding the needs of marginalised or disadvantaged patient groups. They then design more effective strategies for these individuals.
Features like multi-language support, accessible booking mechanisms and multiple modes of invitation overcome traditional barriers for underserved groups. These are activities that were previously too time-consuming to be feasible, but smart digital automation cane make them possible while saving healthcare administrators time
Ultimately, innovative digital health models aligned with proportionate universalism principles can transform preventive care. With smart, equitable deployment of proactive services, we can detect health risks sooner, intervene earlier, and foster healthier lives and communities. This prevents disease and reduces exorbitant costs from late-stage treatment down the line.
Prioritising prevention and making it universally accessible is paramount. As Marmot recognised, this is how we overcome injustice and construct “a society built on a foundation of fairness and social justice.”