Social determinants of health and health inequalities

Understanding inequality in health is essential to ensure individuals receive the appropriate care they need, so how can such inequality be improved? In this guest post, Elis Borde tells us more about the importance of research in this area.

Health is heavily determined by the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These, in turn, are shaped by the distribution of money, power, resources and particularly by the power relations that define social structures and pattern oppression, exploitation and exclusion at local, national and global levels.

The role of research in addressing social determinants of health (SDH) and promoting health equity has repeatedly been emphasized. The World Health Organization Commission on SDH tried to do so by calling for a stronger focus on social determinants of health in public health research in its final report published in 2008.

Building evidence is crucial

It is necessary to continuously revise the scope of our evidence base and dominant approaches in research on the social determinants of health and health inequities.

Evidence is needed for action and it is therefore necessary to continuously revise the scope of our evidence base and dominant approaches in research on the social determinants of health and health inequities. We need to overcome methodological and epistemological limitations, such as the persistent gender bias in this field of research.

Further, it seems mandatory to critically revise the conditions under which research on social determinants of health and health inequities is being carried out, addressing research funding mechanisms and priorities as well as essential structures of the health research systems.

Strengthening research on health

The Social Determinants of Health Network (SDH-Net) is a four year collaboration project, running from 2011 to 2015. The project is financed by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Research Programme and aims to strengthen and link capacities for research on health and its social determinants in African and Latin American low- and middle-income countries in close collaboration with European partners.

An effort is needed to bring together experiences and evidence on strategies towards strengthening capacities for research on social determinants of health and health inequities.

To achieve this, the SDH-Net project are inviting researchers to submit to a special Thematic Series in the International Journal for Equity in Health on the capacities for research on social determinants of health and health inequities with insights from Africa, Latin America and Europe.

Our series is guest edited by Stefan Weinmann, Román Restrepo Villa and Orielle Solar, and we’re aiming to publish articles addressing conceptual debates and methodological questions on a variety of topics around social determinants of health and health inequities. For example, research capacity and research system strengthening measures, and questions of or experiences with research to policy transfer in low- and middle-income countries as well as scientific output in this field.

With this series we hope to build a deeper understanding and knowledge base which will give us the evidence needed for tangible action to be taken.


Deadline for submissions to the thematic series is 30 June 2015.

Please submit your manuscript via our online submission system stating the title of the thematic series in your covering letter. A 20% discount off the article-processing charge will be granted to all accepted manuscripts that have undergone rigorous peer review according to the journal’s policy. For any editorial inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact the Editors.

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