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, a series of commitments by health workforce and other organisations is gathered, to embed and develop action on the social determinants. These form the basis for a 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 the group launched the report with a conference at the BMA. 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.

There are also some supporting documents available:

IHE co-ordinated 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 - can be accessed free by members as part of Continued Professional Development. The course is interactive and includes key information and skills that will help physicians to tackle the social determinants of health in their everyday work life. It is also available to purchase for non-members.

IHE also work 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. Michael Marmot is now a past-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 a report on the role of doctors in tackling the social determinants of health was developed Doctors for Health Equity - World Medical Association Report and a FutureLearn Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) was made available (temporarily) in partnership with the BMJ.