Report 3/2013
Working for Health Equity: The Role of Health Professionals by Matilda Allen, Jessica Allen, Sue Hogarth, Michael Marmot

This report demonstrates that healthcare systems and those working within them have an important and often under-utilised role in reducing health inequalities, through action on the social determinants of health. The health workforce are, after all, well placed to initiate and develop services that take into account and attempt to improve the wider social context for patients and staff.  

The report discusses the best ways to reduce inequities through:

  • workforce education and training;
  • practical actions to be taken during interactions with patients;
  • ways of working in partnership;
  • and the role of advocacy.

It also includes a section on the health system, analysing which mechanisms and structures are supportive of actions to reduce health inequality, and identifying where further development might be needed.

Throughout the report, we have gathered a series of commitments by health workforce and other organisations to embed and develop action on the social determinants and these form the basis for an on-going programme of work led by IHE in partnership with royal colleges, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the BMA, and other organisations and institutions.

The report also provides statements for action developed by health professional organisations which seek to give practical accessible tools for particular professionals to develop and use in their roles.

On the 18th March 2013 we launched the report with a conference at the BMA. We have made available the presentations given at the launch conference, and in the news section of this website you will find media coverage of the report.

Cecil Wilson, past president of the WMA, spoke at the launch and wrote a blog about the report, as have the Wellesley Institute, and Professor Sir Michael Marmot.

The full report and executive summary are available above. There are also some supporting documents available:

The case studies from the report

The commitments to action made by health organisations - the basis of a programme of work

A list of those royal colleges and other professional associations who contributed sections to the report.

IHE are co-ordinating a programme of work to build on this agenda. In the UK we are working with a number of health professional organisations to promote the social determinants of health.

We have developed e-learning modules with the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Physicians that will be accessed by members as part of their Continued Professional Development. This course will be interactive and include key information and skills that will help physicians to tackle the social determinants of health in their everyday work life. 

We are also working internationally to promote the role of health professionals. We have organised a 'Global Symposium: The Role of Physicians and National Medical Associations in Addressing the Social Determinants of Health and Increasing Health Equity' attended by over 100 international delegates. And our Director is currently president of the World Medical Association, which has adopted a declaration on the social determinants of health: the Declaration of Oslo.

As part of his presidency we are writing a report on the role of doctors in tackling the social determinants of health and have developed a FutureLearn Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in partnership with the BMJ.