Putting a social determinants of health focus into government and development agendas

Across the WHO European Region there are persistent differences in the opportunity to be healthy and the risk of illness and premature death between social groups living in the same country. This is true for higher-, middle- and lower-income countries alike. These differences follow a socioeconomic pattern by number of years in education, level and security of income and employment, housing and living conditions, ethnicity and gender. What is most significant is that social inequities in health are amenable to change through systematic and coordinated policy interventions. Strong evidence shows that complex issues such as social inequities in health require solutions that are aligned with an intersectoral approach, linked to broader governance and development policies.

As a result, countries that have made the reduction of social inequities a national priority are increasingly spreading these goals across the whole government, with targets and systems aligned to support coherent delivery across all public sectors and services.