Social determinants of health

© Zoltan Balogh

The social determinants of health (SDH) are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.

As a core function, WHO’s SDH Unit is responsible for coordinating WHO support to countries to take action on SDH to address health inequities. The SDH Unit works to support, guide and strengthen the capacities of countries to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate initiatives to promote health equity through addressing the SDH. The WHO SDH Unit currently focuses on four priority areas, shown below.


  • 30-31 March 2017

    Health in All Policies: Progressing the Sustainable Development Goals

    International Conference in Adelaide, South Australia

  • March 2017

    Health in All Policies: Progressing the sustainable development goals

    Health is present in all of the SDGs. As governance and global development become increasingly complex, HiAP is uniquely positioned to provide governments and public health professionals with a road map to meet the needs of a healthy yet sustainable future at all action levels.

  • November 2016

    Release of Innov8 Approach for Reviewing National Health Programmes to Leave No One Behind

    The Innov8 Approach for Reviewing National Health Programmes to Leave No One Behind< is a resource that supports the operationalization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the progressive realization of universal health coverage and the right to health. Innov8 is an 8-step analytic process undertaken by a multidisciplinary review team that supports identification of ways to make concrete, meaningful and evidence-based programmatic action to make health programme more equity-oriented, rights-based and gender responsive, while addressing critical social determinants of health influencing programme effectiveness and outcomes.

  • November 2016


    Global monitoring of action on the social determinants of health: a proposed framework and basket of core indicators

    WHO invites Member States and any other organizations or individuals to contribute their feedback on the proposed social determinants of health (SDH) action monitoring framework and its indicators presented in the consultation document.
    The framework and its indicators proposed are the outcomes of the meeting held in Ottawa earlier this year.

  • October 2016

    New Health in All Policies course for senior policy makers

    The course is aiming at exploring the reality of achieving Health in All Policies (HiAP) in practice from a political perspective, drawing on real-world case studies and research with a distinguished international track record in this area. This unique opportunity is designed for senior policy makers and practitioners from all countries committed to HiAP. The course is organized by WHO Collaborating Centre, Centre for Public Policy and Health, Durham University.

  • September 2016

    Action:SDG – All for equity panel at the World Health Summit

    During the World Health Summit, taking place 9-11 October 2016, WHO is organizing a panel with academic, government, civil society and media representatives elaborating their experiences, views and potential contributions to Action: SDG. Action: SDG is a user-oriented platform under development, which will offer a common logic model for action on social determinants of health and serve as a repository of action-oriented materials for stakeholders who are in a position to influence people’s health and health equity – across the policy cycle.. WHO is scaling up globally-available e-based information services on Social Determinants of Health (SDH) and support for coordination between different e-platform and SDH information service providers considered as leaders in this area.

  • September 2016

    Working for health and growth

    The UN Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth launched their report in New York on Tuesday, noting; "The health workforce should be geared towards the social determinants of health, health promotion, disease prevention, primary care and people-centred, community-based services."

  • September 2016

    Intersectoral planning for health and health equity

    The Intersectoral planning for health and health equity chapter highlights the need and practical action for integrating other sectors into national health planning processes, with the objective of ensuring better health and health equity. Health equity and SDH are acknowledged as being critical components of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and are an essential element of any country’s path towards achieving universal health coverage (UHC). Without intersectoral action as a fully integrated component – and indeed, mindset – being embedded in the national health planning process, health inequities are likely to persist and, as a result, the health of the populations of the nations in question will suffer.

  • July 2016

    WHO launches Health in All Polices Trainers Network

    WHO has developed Health in All Policies trainers’ platform to facilitate the growth of institutions and trainers networks through sharing information based on regional and national common concerns and experiences.

    The platform is a repository of all the necessary resources (content, technical documents and preparatory training materials) from previously organized trainings, as well as a database of certified HiAP trainers and experts.
    Access the platform

  • June 2016

    Technical meeting on measuring and monitoring action on the social determinants of health

    The meeting objective is to review and make recommendations on the proposed measurement domains and core indicators for the WHO monitoring framework for action on the social determinants of health to improve health equity, in response to pledges of the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health.

  • May 2016

    SDH side events during the 69th World Health Assembly

    Health in All Policies (HiAP) for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achievement event provided opportunities for sharing country experiences on mechanisms, tools and cross-sectoral actions in translating HiAP approaches into concrete actions and sustainable mechanisms, which will contribute to implementation of health related SDGs at the national and global levels.
    For more information, please click here

    Insecurity and Social Determinants of Health aims at identifying Social Determinants of Health as potential drivers of violence; exploring strategies to address health challenges through SDH in terms of prevention, ensuring safety of patients and health professionals; and raising awareness on the relevance to address SDH as a way forward to protect health and prevent insecurity.
    Read more

  • April 2016

    WHO is finalizing Innov8 approach on health sector reorientation towards SDH and reducing health inequities

    The Innov8 approach aims at ensuring that “no one is left behind” in health programmes. Through a series of guided activities organized in 8 steps, the approach enables the generation and application of knowledge, programmatic action and mechanisms for a sustained approach to tackling inequities, gender, human rights and social determinants of health. In that context, the Global Innov8 Training and Orientation meeting has been held from 18 -20 April 2016 in Manila, Philippines.

  • December 2015

    WHO SDH activities in 2015

    Following the mandate of the Rio Political Declaration, the WHO Social Determinants of Health Unit has addressed the following areas of work in 2015:
    - Better governance for health and development – Health in All Policies Training
    - Health sector reorientation towards SDH and reducing health inequities
    - Guidance on pro equity linkages between environmental and social health determinants
    - Monitoring progress on the SDH and health equity.

  • September 2015

    Country updates on social determinants of health

    WHO and national multidisciplinary teams in Morocco and Nepal are undertaking a review process to improve health programme results, close coverage gaps and better meet population needs.
    In Suriname, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO and the United Nations are working to support implementation of the Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach to addressing the social determinants of health.