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Social determinants of health equity

Date Added to Library: 
Monday, August 27, 2018 - 10:30
Individual Author: 
Marmot, Michael
Allen, Jessica J.
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Place Published: 
Washington, DC
Published Date: 
Published Date (Date): 
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
American Journal of Public Health
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Language is important. The call for papers in this supplement was entitled health equity. Yet the call asked for papers that address disparities in health. In the United States, disparities, most often, has been used to refer to racial/ethnic differences in health, or more commonly health care. We note that the call in this supplement expands the focus and highlights differences by socioeconomic status and geographic location, among others. By tradition, in the United Kingdom we have used the term inequalities to describe the differences in health between groups defined on the basis of socioeconomic conditions. To reduce health inequalities requires action to reduce socioeconomic and other inequalities. There are other factors that influence health, but these are outweighed by the overwhelming impact of social and economic factors—the material, social, political, and cultural conditions that shape our lives and our behaviors. Much of the evidence describing this was set out in the World Health Organization Global Commission on the Social Determinants of Health.1 In fact, so close is the link between social conditions and health, that the magnitude of health inequalities is an indicator of the impact of social and economic inequalities on people’s lives. Health then becomes an important further cause for concern about the rapid increase in inequalities of wealth and income in our societies. Increasingly, we are using the language of health inequity to describe those health inequalities that, though avoidable, are not avoided and hence are unfair. Two particular issues stand in the way before we can act on knowledge of social determinants of health to address health equities: lifestyle drift and overconcentration on health care.2 Lifestyle drift describes the tendency in public health to focus on individual behaviors, such as smoking, diet, alcohol, and drugs, that are undoubted causes of health inequities, but to ignore the drivers of these behaviors—the causes of the causes. (Author excerpt)

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