Social determinants of health

© Zoltan Balogh

The social determinants of health (SDH) are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.

As a core function, WHO’s SDH Unit is responsible for coordinating WHO support to countries to take action on SDH to address health inequities. The SDH Unit works to support, guide and strengthen the capacities of countries to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate initiatives to promote health equity through addressing the SDH. The WHO SDH Unit currently focuses on four priority areas, shown below.


  • December 2015

    WHO SDH activities in 2015

    Following the mandate of the Rio Political Declaration, the WHO Social Determinants of Health Unit has addressed the following areas of work in 2015:

    - Better governance for health and development – Health in All Policies Training
    - Health sector reorientation towards SDH and reducing health inequities
    - Guidance on pro equity linkages between environmental and social health determinants
    - Monitoring progress on the SDH and health equity.

    Following the WHO mandate in Resolution WHA65.8, the Progress report on Social Determinants of Health was presented at the 68th World Health Assembly in May 2015.

  • September 2015

    Country updates on social determinants of health

    WHO and national multidisciplinary teams in Morocco and Nepal are undertaking a review process to improve health programme results, close coverage gaps and better meet population needs.
    In Suriname, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO and the United Nations are working to support implementation of the Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach to addressing the social determinants of health.