Global commitment to addressing social determinants of health

The last day of WHO’s World Conference on Social Determinants of Health, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 19–21 October 2011, saw the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health finalized.

Around 1200 people – including over 60 health ministers and representatives of United Nations partners and civil society – took part in the Conference, convened to build support action on the social determinants of health. During the opening, Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, recognized the role of civil society in advocating health and reduced health inequalities, noting that health inequities exist because “the wrong policies are in place”.

European ministers in the spotlight

European health ministers took part throughout the event. For example, Andreas Loverdos, Minister of Health and Social Solidarity of Greece, explained how he is addressing national health issues in light of the economic crisis.

Reporting on developments in his country, Dorjan Marušič, Minister of Health of Slovenia, underlined the vital support received from WHO/Europe and the value of the South-eastern Europe Health Network in undertaking multicountry activities to address the social determinants of health.

The Minister of Health and Care Services of Norway, Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, described the country’s new public health act, which places the commitment to tackle health inequities at the centre of its public health strategy.

Rio Political Declaration

The Declaration expresses global political commitment to implement an approach that addresses the social determinants of health in order to reduce health inequities and achieve other global priorities. It will help to build momentum within WHO Member States to develop dedicated national strategies and action plans.

The Declaration resonates with and strengthens the process of developing a new European policy for health and well-being, Health 2020, by recognizing the vital importance of the social determinants of health and the needs:

  • to reduce health inequities;
  • to strengthen governance for health and development;
  • to strengthen health systems to support the provision of equitable universal coverage of health care;
  • to maintain and further expand public health capacity, including capacity for intersectoral action on the social determinants; and
  • to work for equity through the inclusion of health in the policies of all sectors.