UCL News


World health inequalities interview

6 April 2006

One year after being appointed founding Chair of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, Professor Sir Michael Marmot (UCL International Institute for Society & Health) gave a broad-ranging interview to the WHO's 'Bulletin'.

Professor Marmot is UCL Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health and has been at the forefront of research in health inequalities for the past 20 years, most famously as principal investigator of the Whitehall studies of British civil servants.

'Bulletin' writes: "Many governments recognize that factors such as status, education and employment have an impact on people's health, but few have tackled these social determinants head on. WHO established a commission in March 2005 to come up with recommendations on how countries can address these. One year later, the Commission's chair Professor Sir Michael Marmot tells the Bulletin how WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health is helping governments tackle underlying factors to improve the health and well-being particularly of disadvantaged populations."

Professor Marmot discusses the commission's goal, activities and achievements, including work with a network of partner countries and organisations. He concludes by remarking: "The poor suffer, partly because nobody cares, and key actors pursue economic, political, and social ends regardless of the effect on the poor and underprivileged; and partly because of malign intent. We see this with ethnic conflicts, where one group sets out to kill or disenfranchise another.

"The poor also suffer, because, despite good intentions, governments don't know what to do to improve the situation. You can have a healthier, more flourishing population if you pay attention to these issues. Social and economic success go together: improve health and you may improve the economy; improve the economy and you may improve health."

To read the complete interview, use the link at the bottom of this article.