Social determinants of health

Social determinants of health report by the secretariat EB132/14

Member States Participants at the SDH Rio Conference, October 2011

In May 2012, the Health Assembly in resolution WHA65.8 on the outcome of the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health requested the Director-General, inter alia: to consider social determinants of health duly in the assessment of global needs for health; to provide support to Member States in implementing the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health; to work closely with other organizations in the United Nations system on advocacy, research, capacity building and direct technical support to Member States; and to continue to convey and advocate 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 following mandates from the WHO governing bodies outline the scope and mark the chronological progress of the work on social determinants of health in WHO

Mandates by Member States

  • 6 December 2012

    UN General Assembly Resolution (A/67/L.36)

    The UN General Assembly approved on 6 December 2012 a land mark Resolution entitled Global Health and Foreign Policy. The resolution calls upon Member States and the UN to urgently and significantly scale up efforts to accelerate the transition towards Universal Health Coverage recognizing it should be based, inter alia, on the capacities for broad public health measures, health protection and addressing the social determinants of health through policies across sectors.

  • 26 May 2012

    World Health Assembly resolution 65.8 on the outcome of the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health

    The 65th World Health Assembly endorses the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health adopted by the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health, including as a key input to the work of Member States and WHO

  • 21 January 2012

    Outcome of the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health

    The Executive Board having considered the report on the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 2011), recommends to the Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly the adoption of a resolution supporting five action areas for addressing the social determinants of Health

  • 21 October 2011

    Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health

    During the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in October 2011, Member States adopted the Rio Political Declaration pledging to work towards reducing health inequities by taking action across five priority areas discussed at the conference

  • 21 May 2009

    Reducing health inequities through action on the social determinants of health WHA62.14

    Member States accepted the findings of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health on effective policies to reduce the social gradient in health in the World Health Assembly in 2009 and areas for follow-up actions in Member States, WHO and internationally. The Resolution calls upon the Director-General to “to convene a global event, with the assistance of Member States, before the Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly in order to discuss renewed plans for addressing the alarming trends of health inequities through addressing social determinants of health.

  • 4 December 2008

    Commission on Social Determinants of Health: Report by the Secretariat

    The Report by the Secretariat to the Executive Board EB124/9, 124th Session, explains the background, the process, and the key findings of the Commission It also analyses the key recommendations with specific reference to future actions for WHO

Outcome of the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health

The Executive Board having considered the report on the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 2011), recommends to the Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly the adoption of a resolution supporting five action áreas for addressing the social determinants of Health:

  • Adopt improved governance for health and development
  • Promote participation in policy-making and implementation
  • Further reorient the health sector towards promoting health and reducing health inequities
  • Strengthen global governance and collaboration
  • Monitor progress and increase accountability

What has happened since the World Conference?

The WHO Secretariat recognises that tackling SDH is both a fundamental approach to the work of WHO and a priority area of work in itself in the draft 12th WHO general programme of work 2014–2019, which has been discussed by regional committees before further consideration by the Executive Board and the WHA.

WHO reform:

In the context of WHO reform’s priority setting and strategic planning, addressing SDH and health inequality is essential for global health.

Global plan of action

In order to provide support to Member States to implement the Rio Political Declaration, the WHO Secretariat has prepared a global work plan involving various programmes and different levels of the organization. The work plan addresses the five action areas of the Rio Political Declaration, and identifies tangible outputs and responsibilities within the Secretariat.

The UN Platform on Social Determinants of Health

Following the 2011 World Conference in Rio, the ILO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO agreed to work together on SDH to reduce health inequities and promote development, and support countries to implement the Rio Political Declaration.