Social determinants of health

Social determinants of health discussed at the 66th World Health Assembly

Given the growing recognition of its importance, action on social determinants of health was again discussed at the recently concluded 66th World Health Assembly (WHA) held last May 20-28, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.

During the opening of the assembly, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan reminded Member States that “factors that contribute to good health at low cost include a commitment to equity, effective governance systems, and context-specific programmes that address the wider social and environmental determinants of health.”

Moreover, as required by last year’s WHA resolution endorsing the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health, a report outlining the progress so far in addressing social determinants, particularly in implementing the Declaration’s five action areas, was presented to the Assembly.

Through the report, the Secretariat noted improved performance in the four areas that are highlighted in last year’s WHA: consideration of social determinants of health in the assessment of global needs for health; support to Member States in implementing the Rio Political Declaration; work across the United Nations system on advocacy, research, capacity-building and direct technical support, and advocating the importance of integrating social determinants of health perspectives into forthcoming United Nations and other high-level meetings related to health and/or social development.

The report also featured WHO’s leadership in establishing the Joint UN Platform on Social Determinants of Health, which developed a statement on the need for social determinants of health approach in positioning health in the Post-2015 development agenda. Furthermore, it emphasized that tackling social determinants of health was identified as a fundamental approach to the work of the Organization and a priority area of work in itself in the draft twelfth WHO general programme of work 2014–2019, which was also approved in this year’s WHA.