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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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    2. Peters, D.T.J.M. & Raab, J. & Grêaux, K.M. & Stronks, K. & Harting, J., 2017. "Structural integration and performance of inter-sectoral public health-related policy networks: An analysis across policy phases," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 121(12), pages 1296-1302.
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    6. Nicola Christie, 2018. "Why we need to view road safety through a public health lens?," Transport Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(2), pages 139-141, March.
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    9. Andreea-Oana IACOBUTA & Livia BACIU & Alina-Mariuca IONESCU & Gabriel Claudiu MURSA, 2015. "Socioeconomic Inequalities In Self-Perceived Health In Romania," Journal of Public Administration, Finance and Law, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, vol. 0(Special i), pages 209-224, September.
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    11. 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, June.
    12. 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.
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    14. Gasper, D.R. & Jolly, R. & Koehler, G. & Kool, T.A. & Simane, M., 2020. "Adding human security and human resilience to help advance the SDGs agenda," ISS Working Papers - General Series 131247, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
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    17. Elise Neubourg & Lex Borghans & Karien Coppens & Maria Jansen, 2018. "Explaining Children’s Life Outcomes: Parental Socioeconomic Status, Intelligence and Neurocognitive Factors in a Dynamic Life Cycle Model," Child Indicators Research, Springer;The International Society of Child Indicators (ISCI), vol. 11(5), pages 1495-1513, October.

    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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