Country profile

Finland is situated in the north of Europe and has a population of around 5.4 million with the largest part living in the southern regions. Finland is governed by a central government working out of Helsinki, along with 336 municipal governments.
Finland has a highly decentralized public healthcare system and only a small degree of private healthcare. The municipal governments are responsible for the organization and delivery of healthcare.

Finland is known for having an exceptional educational system, which is judged the best in Europe. Finland has also been ranked as one of the world’s most peaceful, compassionate, and livable countries. Finland’s emphasis on citizen equality and on accessible and high quality welfare services has a long tradition, and Finland has a highly developed welfare state. Health inequalities are low. However, they do persist for due to risk factors among groups with low socioeconomic status. An important public health challenge is finding effective ways to reach these groups.


Policy responses

Finland was among the first EU countries to address health inequality issues, which have been on the agenda of Finish politicians since the 1980’s. Ever since, the topic has been included in all major health programmes, as well as in the broader Government strategies.

Finland has a long-standing strong tradition of cross-governmental collaboration, and the Health in All Policies approach was for example high on the agenda during the 2006 EU Finnish Presidency. The backbone of the Finnish HiAP approach is the legislation which obligates all sectors of the government take health and wellbeing into account. It also sets specific tasks and obligations to municipalities for implementing HiAP., Also, a multi-sectoral advisory board on Public health has been established that pushes for a shift in dialogue to a wider view, and address the broader determinants. The Health Care Act (2010) defines the preventive services that municipalities need to offer, and some of the services are defined in more detail by decrees. The preventive services focusing on children and youth form the cornerstones of the prevention and health promotion. These include, for example, maternity and child health clinic services, school health care, and student health care. However, despite the efforts, levels of inequalities are still growing in the Finish society, along with public budgets being cut due to the economic crisis. Occupational health care reinforces access inequalities as it facilitates faster access through wider provider choice for people from high socioeconomic groups.


An overview of policy responses addressing health inequalities in can be found in our Policy Database.


Good practices

An overview of projects and initiatives that are currently taking place or that have successfully been finalized, and that are addressing health inequality issues, can be found in our Project Database.

Key actors

Please find below an overview of key actors in Finland working on health inequality issues:

  • The Kaventaja website, Reducing Inequalities in Health and Wellbeing. The TEROKA group tackles health inequalities by disseminating information through the Kaventaja website, promoting networking between the actors (municipalities, central government, research institutions, organisations etc.), strengthening the knowledge-base, encouraging policies and building models for the reduction of health inequalities. The work is carried out by experts from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH).

Are you aware of any other key actors that should be added to this list?
Please let us know!


Key resources

Please find below an overview of relevant documents addressing health inequality issues in Finland. Further publications can be found in our Publications Database.

  • Health for All by the Year 2000, The Finnish national Strategy, Ministry of Social Affairs and health, 1986. (no electronic version in English available). This document targets the attainment of not only best possible level of health in the population but also its even distribution.

Are you aware of any other key resources that should be added to this list?
Please let us know!

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