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Reclaiming the state: advancing people's health, challenging injustice

Report of the Third Southern African Conference on Equity in Health
Durban, South Africa
8-9 June 2004


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The EQUINET Southern African Conference on Equity in Health on June 8 and 9 2004 was held in Durban, South Africa under the conference theme 'Reclaiming The State: Advancing People's Health, Challenging Injustice'. The conference theme was chosen to raise debate on and give visibility to the determinants and forces driving or impeding equity in health in our region, southern Africa.

One hundred and thirty delegates from Africa, particularly from southern Africa, and from other regions of the world gathered at the conference to debate, present ongoing work and identify strategies and policies for advancing people's health, based on shared values of fairness and justice. The delegate list is shown in Appendix 1. Delegates came from government, parliament, civil society, research institutions, non-government organisations and other agencies working in health as well as from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other regional networks.

The conference was hosted by EQUINET, a network of institutions in Southern Africa who aim to develop and widen the conceptual understanding of equity in health, to engage stakeholders in the health sector and to influence policies and agendas that have an impact on health. This was the third such conference in the region. The first was held in Kasane in Botswana in 1997 and the second in South Africa in 2001. This third conference offered an opportunity to assess progress towards equity in health and towards implementation of commitments made at the previous conferences on equity in health. The network was formed in 1998 after the Kasane conference and by 2001, individual institutions in the network reported on work in key areas identified as priorities for equity in health.

While the third conference gave an opportunity for presentation of the work underway and the findings for policy and practice, it also reflected the development within EQUINET of widening networks of analysis and action around health equity issues, within countries and across different constituencies. The conference was thus structured to enable debate and exchange of information across different groups on key areas of work and on broad policy goals for health equity and social justice. It also provided an opportunity to share information on country level work and on EQUINET. The programme is shown in Appendix 2.

This report summarises the proceedings of the conference. It has been compiled by TARSC. The EQUINET steering committee acknowledges the contribution of the many southern African institutions and individuals who have carried out the work on equity in health presented at the conference. The steering committee acknowledge the support to the conference given by the Rockefeller Foundation, SIDA (Sweden), the Dag Hammerskold Foundation and IDRC (Canada). Finally we thank the health authorities and institutions in South Africa, and particularly in Kwazulu Natal and Durban, for their warm hospitality and support during the conference.

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