Social determinants of health

What are social determinants of health?

The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities - the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries.

Health equity and social determinants are acknowledged as a critical component of the post-2015 sustainable development global agenda and of the push towards progressive achievement of universal health coverage (UHC). If health inequities are to be reduced, both SDH and UHC need to be addressed in an integrated and systematic manner.

Member States adopted the Rio Political Declaration at the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health in October 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, calling upon them to act in five areas:

  • 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

The Rio Political Declaration was endorsed by WHO Member States at the Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2012.