Who can influence the social determinants of health?


At the beginning of this guide, we talked about heart disease and its root causes. By taking action to address these root causes it is possible to prevent many people having heart attacks.

Changing and improving local environments is a more just and effective way to influence the health and wellbeing of an entire population than waiting for people to become ill and treating them as patients, one person at a time.

Yet there is no single idea or policy that will improve the health of the public. Solutions require all members of society to acknowledge the health impact of what they do and work together to take action. If this happens, we could see improvements in people’s health and a reduction in the health inequalities that exist between different groups in society.

The case studies in Section 4 show how efforts to impact the social determinants of health are taking place across a range of sectors. These efforts involve community empowerment, partnership working, helping those most in need, and incorporating health and wellbeing in all policy decisions (reaching far beyond the Department of Health itself). Such action protects people’s health and helps to provide environments that create health and wellbeing. It also highlights the potential that everyone in society has to improve people’s health, either by directly focusing on the social determinants or explicitly addressing health in everything they do.

Change is never easy – especially in changing political and financial contexts. Often, decisions involve difficult trade-offs. Sometimes, the benefits of action taken in one sector are reaped by another. Nevertheless, organisations are finding ways to come together to tackle the social determinants of health, and must continue to do so.

The single most important intervention is to understand that there is no single most important intervention.

Harry Rutter, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

What can I do to make a difference?

It can be hard to know where to start, but even small changes can influence thinking, narrative and policy. It is likely that such changes would make a difference to people’s health.

Considering the social determinants of health we have outlined in this guide, do you think the last decision you took (or the next one you take) might:

  • have an impact on one or more of the social determinants?
  • have an impact on health and wellbeing?
  • increase or decrease health inequalities?

If the answer is yes to any of those questions, we would ask you to consider:

  • how, in the work you’re already doing, you could more explicitly address health and wellbeing
  • approaching others to discuss joint working initiatives in new areas where both parties benefit
  • talking to your local public health team or a public health expert to find out more about what you can do
  • using the facts, figures and case studies in this guide in presentations, reports or funding bids
  • engaging others about the part they already play in improving people’s health.
Previous Next