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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


SANCHEZ, Raquel Maia  and  CICONELLI, Rozana Mesquita. The concepts of health access. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2012, vol.31, n.3, pp.260-268. ISSN 1680-5348.

This article describes four dimensions of health access-availability, acceptability, ability to pay and information-correlating these dimensions to indica-tors and discussing the complexity of the concept of access. For a study of these four dimensions, searches were conducted using the PubMed/MEDLINE, LILACS, SciELO, and World Health Organization Library & Information Networks for Knowledge (WHOLIS) databases. Large-circulation media vehicles, such as The Economist, The Washington Post, and the BBC network were also searched. The concept of health access has become more complex with time. The first analyses, carried out in the 1970s, suggested a strong emphasis on geographical (availability) and financial (ability to pay) aspects. More recently, the literature has focused on less tangible aspects, such as cultural, educational, and socioeconomic issues, incorporating the element of acceptability into the notion of health access. The literature also shows that information provides the starting point for access to health, in association with health empowerment and literacy for health care decision-making. The study concludes that improvements in access to health and the guarantee of equity will not be achieved by initiatives focusing on health care systems alone, but rather will depend on intersectoral actions and social and economic policies aimed at eliminating income and education differences.

Keywords : health services accessibility; equity in health; health public policy.

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