Social determinants of health

Tackling health inequalities through action on key sectors

There are significant socio-demographic inequalities in both exposure to and negative health outcomes arising from adverse environmental conditions. The existence of these unjust and avoidable inequalities in environmental risks, between and within countries, calls for relevant policies and interventions addressing the mitigation and reduction of risk exposure in the most affected population groups. Member States need to be supported in their capacity to identify national inequalities in environmental risks but also of environmental policies with the potential of closing this equity gap.

With this in mind, WHO has been making strong efforts to strategically align its work on social and environmental determinants of health and to identify environmental areas, policies and interventions having the highest co-benefits to health equity.

In practice this means identifying priority areas and tools, including:

  • Developing Housing and Health Guidelines and related implementation tools for scaling up action on indoor environments - housing conditions are one of the mechanisms through which social and environmental inequality translates into health inequality;
  • Identifying best strategies and good practice for an improvement of urban air quality and water and sanitation having the highest equity impact.