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Policies and strategies to promote social equity in health. Background document to WHO - Strategy paper for Europe




This is the second in a series of discussion papers from the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The first covers concepts and principes of equity in relation to health, and should be read in conjunction with this paper (Whitehead 1990). The present paper sets out to develop the discussion further by outlining a strategic approach to promote greater equity in health between different social and occupational groups. This draws on the work of WHO advisory groups and associated litterature listed at the back, together with practical examples from industrialized countries where strategies have been put into action. The first part (section 1-9) of the paper outlines why equity is seen as a priority and distinguishes different policy levels for interventions. Specific equity aspects related to each policy level are then highlighted as well as some case studies. The second part of the paper (section 10-14) deals with putting policy into practice. Special attention is then paid to the need for comprehensive approaches to combat social and occupational inequities in health as illustrated in terms of a strategy matrix. Furthermore the democratice process within which healthy public policies are to be discussed and determined is discussed as well as organizational aspects as regards the implementation of an equity oriented health policy. Finally checklists are presented focusing upon how to make things happen.

Suggested Citation

  • Dahlgren, Göran & Whitehead, Margaret, 1991. "Policies and strategies to promote social equity in health. Background document to WHO - Strategy paper for Europe," Arbetsrapport 2007:14, Institute for Futures Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifswps:2007_014
    Note: ISSN: 1652-120X; ISBN: 978-91-85619-18-4

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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Birch, 1999. "The 39 steps: the mystery of health inequalities in the UK," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(4), pages 301-308.
    2. Sabel, C.E. & Kihal, W. & Bard, D. & Weber, C., 2013. "Creation of synthetic homogeneous neighbourhoods using zone design algorithms to explore relationships between asthma and deprivation in Strasbourg, France," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 110-121.
    3. repec:eee:hepoli:v:121:y:2017:i:12:p:1296-1302 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Tallarek née Grimm, Marie J. & Helgesen, Marit K. & Fosse, Elisabeth, 2013. "Reducing social inequities in health in Norway: Concerted action at state and local levels?," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 113(3), pages 228-235.
    5. repec:spr:soinre:v:139:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-017-1703-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:spr:chinre:v:11:y:2018:i:5:d:10.1007_s12187-017-9481-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:taf:transr:v:38:y:2018:i:2:p:139-141 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Kearns, Noreen & Pursell, Lisa, 2011. "Time for a paradigm change? Tracing the institutionalisation of health impact assessment in the Republic of Ireland across health and environmental sectors," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 91-96, February.
    9. repec:aic:jopafl:y:2015:v:s2:p:209-224 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Exeter, Daniel John & Rodgers, Sarah & Sabel, Clive Eric, 2014. "“Whose data is it anyway?” The implications of putting small area-level health and social data online," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 114(1), pages 88-96.

    More about this item


    health; social equity;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health


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