New book: Social determinants approaches to public health
24 June, 2011 – A new WHO publication entitled Social determinants approaches to public health: from concept to practice takes the discussion on avoidable and unfair inequities in health to a practical level. The book follows the publication in early 2010 of Equity, social determinants and public health programmes, which analysed social determinants from the perspective of a range of priority public health conditions, exploring possible entry points for addressing health inequities at the levels of socioeconomic context, exposure, vulnerability, health-care outcome and social consequences.
The case studies presented in the new volume cover public health programme implementation in widely varied settings, ranging from prevention of malnutrition among girls in Pakistan and suicide prevention in Canada to malaria control in Tanzania and prevention of chronic noncommunicable diseases in Vanuatu. The book does not provide a one-size-fits-all blueprint for success; rather, it analyses programmatic approaches that led to success or to failure. The final chapter synthesizes these experiences and draws the combined lessons learned.
These lessons include the need for understanding equity as a key value in public health programming and for working not only across sectors but also across health conditions. This requires a combination of visionary technical and political leadership, an appreciation that long-term sustainability depends on integration and institutionalization, and that there are no quick fixes to public health challenges. A common lesson learned from all the analysed cases is to not wait to identify what went right or wrong until after the programme has elapsed or failed. Research is a necessary component of any implementation to routinely explore, gauge, and adjust strategies and approaches in a timely manner.
The book is the joint initiative of the WHO Department of Ethics, Equity, Trade and Human Rights (ETH), Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), and Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (AHPSR). The thirteen case studies were commissioned by the research node of the Knowledge Network on Priority Public Health Conditions (PPHC-KN), a WHO-based interdepartmental working group associated with the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health. website