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Home > Healthy People, Healthy Places > Health Equity > Learn about the social determinants of health and social inequities in health

Learn about the social determinants of health and social inequities in health

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Social Determinants of Health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities - the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries.
[WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health;; retrieved December 13, 2010.]

Health Equity is the condition where everyone could attain their full health potential and are not disadvantaged due to their social position or other socially determined circumstances. 
[Brennan, R, Baker EA, Metzler M. (2008) Promoting Health Equity: A Resource to Help Communities Address Social Determinants of Health. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2008.]

Health Inequalities are differences in health status experienced by various individuals or groups in society. These can be the result of genetic and biological factors, choices made, or of chance. But, often they are due to an individual's unequal access to key factors that influence health like income, education, employment, and social supports. [Health Disparities Task Group. (December, 2004). Reducing Health Disparities Roles of the Health Sector: Discussion Paper]

Health Inequities – Social Inequities in Health refers to those health inequalities that are systematic, socially produced (and therefore modifiable by society's actions), and are judged to be unfair and unjust [PHAC (2007).Canada's Response to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health.]

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Let's Start a Conversation About Health . . . and Not Talk About Health Care at All (with voice-over) 

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Video User Guide : Let's Start a Conversation

10 Promising Practices

Read about the promising practices.

Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts

Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts an introduction to the social determinants of our health – why are they important and what can we do to improve them. (Juha Mikkonen and Dennis Raphael, May 2010)

The Most Important Things You Need to Know

The Most Important Things You Need to Know About Your Health May Not Be as Obvious as You Think: A Sudbury & District Health Unit poster campaign about the social determinants of health.

Priority Populations Primer

Priority Populations Primer: A few things you should know about social inequities in health in the Health Unit's communities (August 2009)

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A Tale of Two Smokers

A Tale of Two Smokers:  If you were told you had to quit smoking and lose 20 lbs., how easy would it be for you? Follow two people as they attempt to lead healthier lives, and learn how the choices you make depend on what choices are available. (Unnatural Causes Interactivity)

Jason's Story

Jason's Story: This deceptively simple story speaks to the complex set of factors or conditions that determine the level of health of every Canadian. (Public Health Agency of Canada)

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Population Health: The New Agenda

Population Health: The New Agenda – Part 1 of 2

Population Health: The New Agenda – Part 2 of 2

These videos by Vancouver Coastal Health are an exploration of differences in health between people and their relationship to things such as income, education, and the neighbourhoods in which we live. Residents share real examples about how the social determinants of health impact their lives.

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