The Social Determinants of Health and Health Equity
Taking action to reduce health inequalities is a matter of social justice. In developing strategies for tackling health inequalities we need to confront the social gradient in health not just the difference between the worst off and everybody else. There is clear evidence when we look across countries that national policies make a difference and that much can be done in cities, towns and local areas. But policies and interventions must not be confined to the health care system; they need to address the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. The evidence shows that economic circumstances are important but are not the only drivers of health inequalities. Tackling the health gap will take action, based on sound evidence, across the whole of society.
Sir Michael Marmot has been Professor of Epidemiology at University College London since 1985, and is Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity. He is the author of The Health Gap: the challenge of an unequal world (Bloomsbury: 2015), and Status Syndrome (Bloomsbury: 2004). Professor Marmot is the Advisor to the WHO Director-General, on social determinants of health, in the new WHO Division of Healthier Populations; Distinguished Visiting Professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong (2019-), and co-Director of the of the CUHK Institute of Health Equity. He is the recipient of the WHO Global Hero Award; the Harvard Lown Professorship (2014-2017); the Prince Mahidol Award for Public Health (2015), and 19 honorary doctorates. Marmot has led research groups on health inequalities for nearly 50 years. He chaired the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, several WHO Regional Commissions, and reviews on tackling health inequality for governments in the UK. He served as President of the British Medical Association (BMA) in 2010-2011, and as President of the World Medical Association in 2015. He is President of the British Lung Foundation. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and Honorary Fellow of the American College of Epidemiology and of the Faculty of Public Health; an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy; and of the Royal Colleges of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Psychiatry, Paediatrics and Child Health, and General Practitioners. He is an elected member of the US National Academy of Medicine and of the Brazilian Academy of Medicine. He was a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution for six years and in 2000 he was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen, for services to epidemiology and the understanding of health inequalities.