The social determinants of health

Introduction

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the social determinants of health as:

"the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age". It goes on to state that these conditions or circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. These are themselves influenced by policy choices. It makes clear the link between the social determinants of health and health inequalities, defined as "the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries".

Here we are making sure that the local authority role in addressing health inequalities through action on the social determinants of health is fully understood and that local government is well placed to take on its proposed new role in leading the local public health function.

This workstream on the Social Determinants of Health (SDH) aims to:

  • raise awareness among local government elected members and officers of health inequalities and the social determinants of health and of the role of local government and its key partners in addressing these
  • build capacity, capability and confidence in local government to address the SDH
  • ensure local government throughout England is aware of the Marmot review into health inequalities and the SDH and is able to contribute effectively to the implementation of the review objectives
  • disseminate knowledge and learning to all local authorities and their partners.

Giving recognition to the health improving outcomes of many of the core functions of local government is a key aspect of this work and is explored in our publication:

The social determinants of health and the role of local government

Understanding and tackling the wider social determinants of health

The social determinants of health have been described as 'the causes of the causes'. They are the social, economic and environmental conditions that influence the health of individuals and populations. They include the conditions of daily life and the structural influences upon them, themselves shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. They determine the extent to which a person has the right physical, social and personal resources to achieve their goals, meet needs and deal with changes to their circumstances.

The wider social determinants of health

The social determinants of health and the role of local government – edited by Dr Fiona Campbell

social determinants of health publication

This highly-regarded publication from the LG Improvement and Development (formerly IDeA) Healthy Communities programme assesses what local government can do to tackle the social conditions that lead to health inequalities. Written by reputable practitioners and academics and edited by Dr Fiona Campbell, the articles build on 'Fair society, healthy lives: the Marmot Review of health inequalities in England'. Some writers illustrate what is already happening in local government presently, while others surmise on what the possibilities would be if local authorities were given more powers to manoeuvre. Written before the coalition government came to power, it retains its status as essential reading for the new structures for public health.

The social determinants of health and the role of local government

The Marmot Review: Fair society, healthy lives

The Marmot Review into health inequalities in England was published on 11 February 2010. It draws further attention to the evidence that most people in England aren't living as long as the best off in society and spend longer in ill-health. The report argues to improve health for all of us and to reduce unfair and unjust inequalities in health, action is needed across the social gradient.

More on 'Fair society, healthy lives'

Social determinants of health online library

This is a resource designed to be of use to a range of professionals from throughout local government services, from children's services to planning. You will find a number of specific sections dedicated to different service areas. These explore how they contribute to improving health, creating the environment for good health and tackling 'the causes of the causes' of poor health.

The resource will be developed over the coming months and currently includes:

Access online library

The social determinants of health development projects

The social determinants of health programme has contributed funding to three local authority-led projects under the SDH development fund to help develop good practice in addressing health inequalities.

This fund was created to support and promote creative and innovative practice in addressing health inequalities through action on the social determinants of health. Bids were invited on the themes of commissioning for health equity, developing skills and capabilities in the wider public health workforce and enhancing partnership working. Funding was targeted to support the development of innovative practice, to review and evaluate programmes of work and to capture and disseminate good practice.

Our report provides a summary of two of these projects; the 'Back to front' project in Leeds and the 'Five to strive' project in Cheshire West and Chester.

Access the report here

Recent events

The Leading the way conference: how can local authorities lead the public health agenda

Further to the 'Leading the public health agenda: The role of councils' conference held on 15 November 2010 local government is set to take on responsibilities for public health as part of the biggest shake-up of health delivery for sixty years. Uncertainties around how this will be managed and implemented are understandably preoccupying both staff and members. But a recent conference heard that local authorities must first work out what improved health outcomes would look like in their area and identify creative ways of getting there in a context of tighter spending.

Leading the way conference (PDF, 5 pages, 95KB)

 

23 December 2014

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