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Launch of the WHO (Europe) Review of social determinants and the health divide in the WHO European Region.

4th November 2013

The recent launch of this new WHO report was truly thought provoking. Michael Marmot, his team and a number of prestigious speakers, drew our attention to the health inequalities which persist both between European countries and between different population groups within even the most affluent countries. Of the 53 countries included within the review the UK was placed within the top third in terms of life expectancy but in the lower half for child poverty levels.

The review team urged everyone to consider interventions deliverable across the life course, especially interventions which supported good child health and inter-generation equity.  We were also asked to consider the impact of ‘wider society’ and especially social policy as a health determinant; we were urged to promote equity as a driver for public health policy.

Finally we were asked to consider how the systems in which we work can be rallied to support behaviour change for health. Each speaker offered a distinctive and unique perspective.  Their message was clear, even though the evidence regarding the impact of social determinants on health and what needs to be done to address inequity is available, non-health organisations will not be banging on our door asking what they can do to support us in this endeavour.  As public health practitioners with an interest on the life-course but an emphasis on early years we need to learn the language of communities, existing and potential partners so we can translate the evidence meaningfully for all audiences leading to a commitment to act and then action.  In this way we can respond to the call of the Review’s mantra to “do something, do more, do better”.

The contribution of Professor Kevin Fenton from Public Health England will be particularly interesting to health visitors. On behalf of Public Health England, Professor Fenton identified the particular contribution of health visitors to delivering on the above agenda he also said that Public Health England was committed to supporting health visitors as commissioning of their services move into Local Authority control.


For the report:


Dr Mary Malone and Lynn Sayer, Kings College, London

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