Review of social determinants and the health divide in the WHO European Region. Executive summary (2013)




2013, xii + 29 pages
ISBN 978 92 890 0032 1

The WHO European Region has seen remarkable health gains, though inequities persist both between and within countries. Much more is understood now about the extent and social causes of these inequities, particularly since the 2008 report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health.

A review of inequities in health across the 53 Member States of the Region was commissioned to support the development of the new European policy framework for health and well-being, Health 2020. The European review built on the global evidence and recommends policies to ensure that progress can be made in reducing health inequities and the health divide across all countries, including those with low incomes. Action is needed on the social determinants of health, across the life-course and in wider social and economic spheres to achieve greater health equity and protect future generations.

This executive summary of the final report of the review: indentifies areas for action, new approaches to take, ways to do more and do better, links between the social determinants of health and human rights, and action in a cold economic climate. Most of this short publication, however, focuses on recommendations for action to reduce health inequities:

  • throughout life (in family building, childhood and the work place, and for women and older people);
  • in wider society (action for social protection, on gender, in local communities and against social exclusion);
  • on the macro-level context (on social expenditure and for sustainable development); and
  • on systems (to improve governance, to address health priorities and to measure and report on progress against inequities in health).

The review is a wake-up call to political and professional leaders alike, an opportunity for them to facilitate the work of those dedicated to improving health outcomes and narrow the health gap between and within the countries of the Region.