Social determinants of health

Intersectoral action

Phase 3 of the WHO-PHAC Collaboration on ISA will start soon: send us your contribution

The WHO-PHAC collaboration on ISA will start its Phase 3. An information note containing 5 open-ended questions is being disseminated to institutions and researchers with an interest in intersectoral action, requesting their views on potential areas of focus for this next phase and on ways of organizing the work. We invite you or your institution to send us your responses to, and, or, comments on, the following questions:

What do we mean by intersectoral action (ISA)?

Intersectoral action refers to actions affecting health outcomes undertaken by sectors outside the health sector, possibly, but not necessarily, in collaboration with the health sector.

Why intersectoral action (ISA)?

Major influences that shape the health of populations and the distribution of health inequities are located outside the health sector. The fact that most of these influences lie outside of the exclusive jurisdiction of the health sector, requires the health sector to engage with other sectors of government and society to address the determinants of health and well-being.

The Commission's final report emphasizes the need for ministries of health to engage in intersectoral action in order to improve health equity. In addition, the way the health system incorporates intersectoral action is defined as one of the main axes for the development of the Primary Health Care strategy that was has been re-launched by WHO to strengthen health systems globally (see World Health Report 2008 below).

WHO - Public Health Agency of Canada collaboration

Since 2006, WHO and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) have worked collaboratively to develop the knowledge base related to effective intersectoral approaches. This work informed the final report of the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health and is informing the ETH Department's follow-up strategy.

Phase 3 (2009-2010):

The current Phase of the WHO-PHAC Intersectoral Action Collaboration will propose a strategy for an expanded, multi-institutional collaboration that will provide a systematic, sustained approach to developing the ISA knowledge base for tackling health inequities, that is both comprehensive and accessible to countries. For more information, please email


  • Short term: the experience of Phases 1 and 2 have indicated the need for a better understanding of the mechanisms and tools that operationalize intersectoral action to improve health equity. Information received in response to the Phase 3 communication will be used to shape the terms of reference for a report on mechanisms and tools.
  • Long term: the call will be one instrument used to help develop a multi-institutional network to amplify, consolidate and sustain work in this area.

The WHO-PHAC initiative has had the following phases:

Phase 1 (2006-2007): Review of global literature (see below).

Phase 2.1 (2007): Developing terms of reference and commissioning case studies from 18 countries.

Phase 2.2 (2007): Facilitation of an international dialogue, 2007 IUHPE Conference.

Phase 2.3 (2007-2008): The development of a report that synthesized the learnings from the 18 country case studies (Health equity through intersectoral actions: an analysis of 18 country case studies).