Global Action on Social Determinants of Health Institute of Health Equity

Article by Michael Marmot in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, October 2011 (Vol. 89, no. 10)

Closing the gap in a generation is a rousing call. Did the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH) really believe it to be possible? Technically, certainly. Yes, there is a greater than 40-year spread in life expectancy among countries and dramatic social gradients in health within countries. But the evidence suggests that we can make great progress towards closing the health gap by improving, as the CSDH put it, the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These include ensuring: equity for every child from the start, healthier environments, fair employment and decent work, social protection across the life course and universal health care. To make such progress, we must also deal with inequity in power, money and resources – the social injustice that is killing on a grand scale. At a more fundamental level, our vision is to create the conditions so that every person may enjoy the freedoms that lead to improved health – what we call empowerment.

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