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.


  • July 2016

    WHO launches Health in All Polices Trainers Network

    WHO has developed Health in All Policies trainers’ platform to facilitate the growth of institutions and trainers networks through sharing information based on regional and national common concerns and experiences.

    The platform is a repository of all the necessary resources (content, technical documents and preparatory training materials) from previously organized trainings, as well as a database of certified HiAP trainers and experts.
    Access the platform

  • May 2016

    SDH side events during the 69th World Health Assembly

    Health in All Policies (HiAP) for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achievement event provided opportunities for sharing country experiences on mechanisms, tools and cross-sectoral actions in translating HiAP approaches into concrete actions and sustainable mechanisms, which will contribute to implementation of health related SDGs at the national and global levels.
    For more information, please click here

    Insecurity and Social Determinants of Health aims at identifying Social Determinants of Health as potential drivers of violence; exploring strategies to address health challenges through SDH in terms of prevention, ensuring safety of patients and health professionals; and raising awareness on the relevance to address SDH as a way forward to protect health and prevent insecurity.
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  • April 2016

    WHO is finalizing Innov8 approach on health sector reorientation towards SDH and reducing health inequities

    The Innov8 approach aims at ensuring that “no one is left behind” in health programmes. Through a series of guided activities organized in 8 steps, the approach enables the generation and application of knowledge, programmatic action and mechanisms for a sustained approach to tackling inequities, gender, human rights and social determinants of health. In that context, the Global Innov8 Training and Orientation meeting has been held from 18 -20 April 2016 in Manila, Philippines.

  • 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.

  • 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.