7.3 Social determinants of health

 Key documents

  • Social determinants of health: Report by the Secretariat (EB132/14)

Secretariat note

This report describes the progress in implementing resolution WHA65.8, including the support provided to Member States in implementing the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health. The Board is invited to note the report.

PHM comment pre-EB

PHM welcomes the progresses in the implementation of the Rio Political Declaration and in the engagement with other bodies of the UN system in a “health in all policies” approach. Despite that, we find that there are few advances in the discussion on social determinants of health. The report also fails to identify the causes of health inequities and avoids suggetsing future actions and policies to address such inequities. Finally we are concerned about the real commitment towards implement of the Rio Declaration. Europe, for example, represents the contradiction between the policy framework for health and well-being proposed in Health 2020 and the recent austerity measures that are driving the privatization of universal health systems and the dismantling of the welfare state

Report of discussion

The discussion on this agenda item was driven by strong and continuous references to the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health and to the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.

The floor was opened by Seychelles, on behalf of the African Region, that stated their strong commitment to Social Determinants of Health (SDH) in implementing health interventions and the need to consider SDH as a priority in the agenda of WHO. Morocco highlighted the important role that WHO has to play in prioritising SDH in the Twelfth General Programme of Work. The contributions from the European countries focused on the “health in all policies” approach and on the need to improve the integration between different sectors to concretely address the SDH, driven by principles such as equity, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and collaboration with local communities. In this discussion the floor was definitely led by Central and South American Countries, that brought very concrete and meaningful arguments on the issue: Cuba started affirming that the Cuban health system is based on full inclusion and on social justice as a strategy to ensure UHC, and added that this is the result of a permanent political will to fight against social exclusion and inequalities. Panama mentioned the need for advocacy campaigns in the American Region, Mexico called for better tools to measure distribution of health and Colombia stressed the need to prioritise SDH. The most interesting point was raised by Ecuador that required explanations about the fact that some countries made more advances than others. Ecuador strongly brought to the floor the unmentioned reasons of inequalities with the aim to address the attention on the different contexts that each country is facing, and finally mentioned the Minamata Convention on Mercury as a good instrument to integrate environment and health. Argentina closed the contribution from MS, highlighting the importance of facing inequalities through the “health in all policies” approach, and stressing the fundamental role of WHO in setting the plan for sustainable development .


Then International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA) took the floor with a clout for the fact that the report avoids to identify the root causes of poverty, quoting the “Closing the gap” report.

The Assistant DG closed the discussion recognizing that more concrete interventions have to be done at global, regional and local level, but avoided to reply to the specific question raised by Ecuador, even after having been solicited by DG.

PHM comment post-EB

Watch this space

Other reports and commentary

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