Social determinants of health


Publications are categorised within the five Action Areas’ of the Global Plan of Action on SDH/Rio Political Declaration on SDH (see below), and also by topic, e.g. civil society, early childhood development, globalization, etc (see bottom of page).

Social Determinants of Health Discussion Paper Series

This is a WHO publication series devoted to the social determinants of health. The series explores themes related to strategy, governance, tools and capacity building for addressing the social determinants of health to improve health equity.

Action Area 1. Adopt improved governance for health and development

Supporting regional positions on Health in all Policies

Regional reports

Regional web pages for the case studies

The Economics of Social Determinants of Health project

Improving understanding of economic rationales for intersectoral policy and programme interventions is therefore an important component of work for countries implementing social determinants of health recommendations. For this reason, WHO launched the Economics of Social Determinants of Health project to describe and discuss the potential for economic rationales to make the case for social determinants of health interventions, and to summarize economic evidence in key public policy areas.

Social Determinants of Health Sectoral Briefing Series

The Social Determinants of Health Sectoral Briefing Series was launched as a follow-up initiative to the Health in All Policies International Meeting in Adelaide in 2010. Research shows that health equity is driven by policies in other sectors as well as complex social, economic and political factors. By providing information on other sectors’ agendas and policy approaches and by illustrating areas for potential collaboration, the Series encourages a more systematic dialogue with other sectors. Rather than concentrating only on public health interventions (e.g. treatment, prevention, protection), the Series suggests areas of mutual interest to motivate joint work.

1. Housing: shared interests in health and development

2. Education: shared interests in well-being and development

3. Transport (road transport): shared interests in sustainable outcomes

4. Social protection: shared interests in vulnerability reduction and development

5. Energy: shared interests in sustainable development and energy services

Health in All policies (HiaP)

Health in all Policies (HiaP) highlights the important links between health and broader economic and social goals in modern societies, and it positions improvements in population health and reductions in health inequities as high priority, complex problems that demand an integrated policy response across sectors. This strategy considers the effects of policies on social determinants as well as the beneficial impact of improvements in health on the goals of other sectors.

Case Studies

These case studies were commissioned by WHO and PHAC and focused on documenting experiences of intersectoral policy processes. In the end, case studies were finalized from 18 countries, illustrating intersectoral actions undertaken to improve health or health equity at different levels of government or between government and civil society.

Country Reports on Rio Political Declaration implementation

Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health: A Selection of Canadian Actions 2013 report

The report produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada, based on information gathered from select federal government departments, from the provinces and territories through the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network Council and from the Canadian Council on Social Determinants of Health (CCSDH) which is a national level, collaborative forum that facilitates intersectoral action on the social determinants of health and provides the Agency with advice on implementation of the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health.

Toward Health Equity: Canadian Approaches to the Health Sector Role

This paper is a case study prepared by the Public Health Agency of Canada and presented at the World Health Organization’s 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion in June 2013. The paper reports on consultations held with select Canadian federal, provincial/territorial, and local public health practitioners and policy makers, summarizing their experiences in integrating health equity within the health sector. It describes common elements found in the various approaches to equity integration, and identifies some enabling factors and challenges experienced in the Canadian context.

New approach to development

Action Area 2. Promote participation in policy-making and implementation.

Civil society refers to the space for collective action around shared interests, purposes and values, generally distinct from government and commercial for-profit actors. Civil society includes charities, development NGOs, community groups, women's organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, social movements, coalitions and advocacy groups.

Action Area 3. Further reorient the health sector towards promoting health and reducing health inequities.

Public health programmes often neglect the contribution that addressing social determinants of health (SDH) can make to achieving health targets, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Working with public health programmes to identify social determinants and health equity issues specific to public health programmes, and support to address those are important mandates of the Department of Ethics and Social Determinants of Health (ESD).

Social determinants approaches to public health: from concept to practice, 2011

Case studies highlighting implementation issues related to health programme interventions for addressing SDH to improve health equity.

Equity, Social Determinants and Public Health Programmes, 2010

Analyses of SDH that impact on specific health conditions and potential interventions to improve health equity.

Social determinants of reproductive health, 2010

Priority Public Health Conditions scoping paper A paper on social determinants of health and equity, Priority Public Health Conditions Knowledge Network, framework for analysis, process timelines and milestones, proposed products by the Commission.

Priority Public Health Conditions Knowledge Network: Guides for phase 1, 2 & 3: The PPHC KN involved three phases: Phase 1: Analysis of public health conditions; Phase 2: Interventions and Implementation; and, Phase 3: Measurement. Tools were developed to support the public health programmes to do the analysis at each phase. The tools can be downloaded below:

Action Area 4. Strengthen global governance and collaboration.

WHO provides support to Member States to access financial resources and technical cooperation, and coordinate and improve international cooperation, including the work with other UN agencies on social determinants of health in promoting health equity.

Action Area 5. Monitor progress and increase accountability.

The MEKN led on the development of methodologies and tools for measuring the causes, pathways and health outcomes of policy interventions to tackle the social determinants of health and health inequities. There was also an emphasis on documenting processes of change and attributing improvements in health outcomes to social determinants programs and policies.

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To support action in countries across the five social determinants of health Action Areas, WHO launched the platform Action:SDH to provide a central portal for discussion and information. WHO is working with interested institutions, including collaborating centres, to produce content for this portal. Institutions interested in collaborating on particular services or topic areas can write to

Publications by topic