The lower one’s socioeconomic position, the worse the person’s health.

This is the sobering finding in a landmark report published but the World Health Organization (WHO), Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health.

While children born in Japan can live beyond 80 years, and newborns in Africa less than 50 years, there are also huge lifespan differentials within these countries. Within every nation, socioeconomics determine health outcomes.

What are the social determinants of health? They’re a host of ‘inputs’ into our daily lives, from education to clean water and healthy food, clean air, safe and secure housing, safe neighborhoods.

The report sets out 3 principles of action:

1. Improve the daily conditions of life
2. Address the dramatic disparities of income and political power
3. Measure the problem, then tackle it.

Some of the solutions are:

  • To provide early childhood education and nutritional/food support.
  • To promote safe neighborhoods, and sound urban and rural development
  • Get real about climate change
  • Achieve safe, secure and fairly paid work
  • Provide a safety net for the most vulnerable people
  • Provide universal health care, built on primary health care access.

WHO established the Commission on Social Determinants of Health in 2005 to shed light on health equity around the world. For more insights into this important issue, see
www.who.int/social_determinants.


Health Populi’s Hot Points: The safety net in America is holier and shallower than it’s been in years. The U.S. provides the least generous “total family policy generosity” and has the greatest incidence of child poverty among 20 developed countries based on WHO’s data. Americans don’t have universal access to health care. Health disparities between groups of Americans continue to plague health outcomes in the nation. Job losses grow.

An approach to using social determinants on health works in Africa and India, and it works in Detroit and Appalachia and South Central LA, as well.

Health isn’t only about universal health insurance — but that’s one crucial underpinning for a civil, healthy society. In the U.S. health is also a function of employment — if one’s employer provides health insurance.

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