New thrust needed to tackle health inequalities globally says UCL scientist

UCL public health scientist, Professor Sir Michael Marmot, writes in a paper published in the Lancet journal on 18th March 2005 that a major new thrust is needed internationally to tackle health inequalities. Professor Marmot, Director of UCL's International Centre for Health & Society, will chair the Commission on Social Determinants of Health launched by the World Health Organisation on Friday 18th March bringing together scientists and policy-makers to help reverse the negative impact of social policy on ill-health.

Writing in the Lancet paper, Professor Marmot said: "To reduce inequalities in health across the world there is need for a third major thrust that is complementary to development of health systems and relief of poverty: to take action on the social determinants of health. Such action will include relief of poverty but it will have the broader aim of improving the circumstances in which people live and work."

The Lancet paper is the first produced by Professor Michael Marmot in his role as Chair of the Commission. It sets out why the health impact of social policy must be taken seriously by governments worldwide and underlines the need for understanding about how social policy affects health (the social determinants of health) globally. There still isn't any solid understanding of why a richer country isn't always a healthier one and what social policies might impact on health, argues Marmot.

The Commission will set out guidelines for governments and policy-makers on what changes can be made to reverse high mortality rates and ill-health in countries across the world. Professor Marmot believes that better working conditions have a huge impact on mortality rates, as does education. It isn't always health policy that impacts on the health of a nation.

Key facts set out in Professor Marmot's paper include:

  • Life expectancy at birth ranges from 34 in Sierra Leone to 81.9 in Japan.
  • Differ

Contact: Alex Brew
University College London

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