There is increasing concern from political leaders, policy-makers and the public about the growing gap in the financial, social and health status of Australia’s most advantaged and disadvantaged peoples.
The social, cultural and economic forces that shape people’s daily living conditions are called the ‘social determinants’ or the ‘causes of the causes’ of health.
When these determinants result in an unfair and avoidable distribution of health in society, for example between the rich and poor, between men and women, or between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, they are considered health inequities.
Many of these determinants and health inequities are affected by political and policy processes outside of the health sector. For example, education, employment, the built environment, access to healthful commodities (e.g. nutritious food), as well as health care all affect the distribution of health in society.
To achieve and maintain good health, people not only need sufficient financial resources and control over their lives, but also representation in the policy processes that affect their health.
Health inequities are such an important issue internationally that the World Health Organization established the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health to identify what could be done to improve global health.