“The toxic combination of bad policies, economics and politics is, in large measure, responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible.”
That’s the strong conclusion of the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health in their powerful new report, Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity through Action on the Social Determinants of Health, which was released in Geneva earlier today.
The report is comprehensive – with more than 250 pages that touches on the latest research, actions, resources and mobilization. The final chapter – “Building a global movement” – is a powerful call to action.
The Wellesley Institute has been committed to advancing urban health by mobilizing around the social determinants of health since we formed a decade ago. The WHO report is a good blueprint on a global level and can also be a road-map for national and local initiatives.
Here is more from the introduction:
“Social justice is a matter of life and death. It affects the way people live, their consequent chance of illness, and their risk of premature death. We watch in wonder as life expectancy and good health continue to increase in parts of the world and in alarm as they fail to improve in others. A girl born today can expect to live for more than 80 years if she is born in some countries – but less than 45 years if she is born in others. Within countries there are dramatic differences in health that are closely linked with degrees of social disadvantage. Differences of this magnitude, within and between countries, simply should never happen.”
“These inequities in health, avoidable health inequalities, arise because of the circumstances in which people grow, live, work, and age, and the systems put in place to deal with illness. The conditions in which people live and die are, in turn, shaped by political, social, and economic forces.” “Social and economic policies have a determining impact on whether a child can grow and develop to its full potential and live a flourishing life, or whether its life will be blighted. Increasingly the nature of the health problems rich and poor countries have to solve are converging. The development of a society, rich or poor, can be judged by the quality of its population’s health, how fairly health is distributed across the social spectrum, and the degree of protection provided from disadvantage as a result of ill-health.”