There have been numerous ways in which the notion of equity has been put forward in the literature. This reflects the fact that equity is essentially driven by values and is therefore subject to individual interpretation and preferences. Deciding between these various value judgements is however outside the scope of economic analysis, as conventionally defined. This poses a problem for the examination of issues of resource allocation in Aboriginal health services in Australia, where equity, very clearly, has a role to play. One possibility for moving forward on this issue is the adoption of a ‘claims’ approach where the emphasis is on the explicit recognition of the values to be employed in the ‘equitable’ allocation of resources. This involves teasing out the principles by which, under various approaches, resources are allocated differentially across groups (e.g. under resource allocation formulae, the criterion of ‘need’ as measured by SMRs can be viewed to be a basis for a ‘claim’ over resources). The commonly cited ‘basic needs approach’ is then used in the paper as a case in point to illustrate how such underlying principles may be identified and then assessed. In relation to the issue of equity in Aboriginal health services, there are a number of possible standards for equity which seem to have a significant degree of community acceptance. The paper discusses ways in which they can be applied to the problem of deciding how to allocate resources in Aboriginal health.
Social Science and Medicine (2002) 5411): 1657-1667 [doi:10.1016/S0277-9536(01)00333-1]