Social Drivers of Health

World Health Organization Releases New Guidance On Monitoring the Social Determinants of Health Equity

Feb 19, 2024

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released an operational framework for monitoring social determinants of health equity and actions addressing them. This critical new guidance aims to support countries in evidence-based policymaking to improve health equity, towards the goal of enabling everyone, everywhere, to attain the highest possible standard of health and well-being.

The conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, and people’s access to power, money and resources—also called the social determinants of health—affect their health and well-being. These same factors drive health inequity within and across countries. Recent and ongoing crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and conflict across the world, further exacerbate inequities and highlight the urgent need for governments to rebuild societies in ways that benefit everyone.

“Upholding the fundamental human right to health requires governments to systematically identify and eliminate inequities. This can only be possible when countries have the data, systems and capacities to do so,” said Dr Etienne Krug, Director, Department for Social Determinants of Health, WHO. “The WHO operational framework for monitoring social determinants of health equity offers a clear and practical way forward.”

Renewed efforts
Nearly two decades ago, WHO’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health set out an agenda to support countries in addressing social determinants of health. Despite high-level commitments by many governments, progress in implementing the Commission’s recommendations remains insufficient.

To ensure that actions taken to address the social determinants of health achieve their objectives, governments need accurate, timely and comparable data to develop and implement evidence-based policies, allocate resources and prioritize interventions. In this context, the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly in 2021 adopted resolution WHA74.16, which encouraged Member States to take action to address the social determinants of health. As part of this resolution, WHO had been tasked to prepare an operational framework to measure social determinants of health and health inequities.

The recently launched operational framework reviews previous research and work on the topic; offers a menu of indicators; indicates a step-by-step process for technical monitoring; and describes how to use data to inform policy for health equity at national and subnational levels. Along with the forthcoming world report on social determinants of health equity, the operational framework spearheads renewed efforts to address the social determinants of health.

“WHO stands by its commitment to advancing health equity and creating fairer societies and healthier lives. Monitoring the social determinants of health equity is a key step, and we are ready to assist countries to use and adapt the operational framework to their own national contexts,” Dr Krug said.