Magazine article The Nation's Health

Social Inequalities Are Global Killers, WHO Commission Finds

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Social Inequalities Are Global Killers, WHO Commission Finds

Article excerpt

Social inequities are killing people on a "grand scale," concluded a commission convened by the World Health Organization that found where people live greatly influences their lifespan and health.

A girl in the African country of Lesotho is likely to live 42 years less than a girl in Japan, according to "Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity Through Action on the Social Determinants of Health," a report from WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. And while the risk of dying during childbirth is 1 in 17,000 for a Swedish woman, for a woman in Afghanistan it is 1 in 8. Inequalities are so profound that even a child born in a Glasgow, Scotland, suburb has a life expectancy 28 years shorter than a child born 8 miles away.

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A three-year investigation by a group of policymakers, academics, former heads of state and former ministers of health concluded in a report that differences between and within countries result from the social environments where people are born, live, grow, work and age. The commission issued its report in late August and offered recommendations on addressing the global imbalance when it comes to life expectancy and other health measures.

"(The) toxic combination of bad policies, economics and politics is, in large measure, responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible," the commissioners wrote in the report. "Social injustice is killing people on a grand scale."

Sir Michael Marmot, PhD, MPH, MBBS, FRCP, FFPHM, FMedSci, who chaired the report's authoring commission and will deliver the keynote address at the APHA Annual Meeting in San Diego, said the international public health community must help create "the conditions for people to be empowered, to have freedom to lead flourishing lives. …

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