Social determinants examined for their impact to improve health
A world conference in Rio de Janeiro
Representatives from more than 100 governments around the world, health experts, civil society organizations and other stakeholders are converging in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for three days to discuss how social, economic and environmental conditions could be improved to reduce the health gaps within and between countries. The World Conference on Social Determinants of Health – convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) and hosted by the Government of Brazil – gives governments and stakeholders a forum to discuss necessary steps to tackle the root causes of health inequities. It is expected to be attended by 60 ministers of health. The conference is taking place amidst mounting pressure on governments to reduce social inequalities, which have further widened as a result of the global financial crisis.
"The differences within and between countries, in income levels, in opportunities, in health status, and in access to care are greater today than at any time in recent history," says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO. "A world that is greatly out of balance in matters of health is neither stable nor secure."
At present, the life expectancy gap between countries is 36 years and there is ample evidence that in all countries of the world - whether low, middle or high-income - an individual's health status is largely determined by his socio-economic position. With the right mix of government policies, and through coordinated action on the local, national and international levels, the existing gaps could be narrowed.
Infectious diseases of poverty are to a large extent caused by social determinants, and control efforts need to be embedded in broader social determinants approaches to public health, based on the principles of Primary Health Care. TDR has contributed to the work of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health and is following the outcomes from the world conference in Rio de Janeiro. On Friday's conference conclusion, governments are likely to endorse a Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health outlining their agreements and pledges to improve the broader social conditions that affect people's health.
For more information, contact Dr Johannes Sommerfeld.