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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.