World Conference on Social Determinants of Health opens

WHO is holding a global conference on 19–21 October 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to build support for action on the social determinants of health. The Conference brings together Member States and ministers, United Nations partners and nongovernmental organizations to discuss evidence from countries that have made progress in addressing these determinants and reducing health inequities.

Action is required across five areas:

  • governance to tackle the root causes of health inequities: taking action on the social determinants of health;
  • promoting participation: community leadership for action;
  • role of the health sector, including public health programmes, in reducing health inequities;
  • global action on social determinants: aligning priorities and stakeholders; and
  • monitoring progress: measurement and analysis to inform policies and build accountability on the social determinants.

European Member States are strongly represented, with contributions from Greece, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom on the agenda.

There are major inequalities in health within and between countries in the WHO European Region. For example, average life expectancy differs between countries by 20 years for men and 12 years for women. WHO/Europe has commissioned a review of the social determinants of health and the health divide in the European Region, chaired by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, University College London, United Kingdom. This review will inform the new European policy for health and well-being: Health 2020. WHO/Europe issued an interim second report on social determinants of health and the health divide for the sixty-first session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in September 2011, and the work undertaken so far feeds into the World Conference. The final European report and recommendations are due in 2012.