UCL News


Sir Michael Marmot Receives CDC Foundation Hero Award

2 October 2007


who.int/social_determinants/en/" target="_self">WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health
  • UCL International Institute for Society and Health
  • Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director the UCL International Institute for Society and Health, received the 2007 Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation Hero Award on 17 September 2007 in Washington DC. The foundation honoured Sir Michael for his groundbreaking work examining how socioeconomic status affects health over a lifetime.  

    Sir Michael has been at the forefront of research into health disparities for the past 20 years, as Principal Investigator of the Whitehall studies of British civil servants, investigating explanations for the striking inverse social gradient in morbidity and mortality. His work demonstrates how health and life expectancy correlate to an individual's socioeconomic position, with those in the upper class experiencing the lowest rates of disease, those in the middle gradually experiencing higher rates, and the poor suffering from the highest rates of disease and the lowest life expectancy.

    Charles Stokes, President and CEO of the CDC Foundation, said: "Sir Michael's work has great implications for CDC, other public health researchers, employers and policy makers. All societies are founded on hierarchies of some kind, but Sir Michael argues that we have opportunities to make changes within these hierarchies to help reduce disparities and improve health. This is important work that is informing new strategies for overall population health protection and individual preventive medicine. We are honoured to recognise Sir Michael Marmot's achievements with the CDC Foundation Hero Award."  

    Sir Michael said: "The social gradient in health is pervasive. It is seen in many countries, but the size of health inequalities varies. Understanding why position on the social hierarchy is related to health gives us the possibility to reduce health inequalities. The challenge is to implement our research findings on how the circumstances in which people live, work, grow and age influence their health. CDC, par excellence, is an organisation that uses best research to influence the public's health. Taking action on social determinants of health could be a most important part of its mission."  

    Sir Michael is chair of the World Health Organisation Commission on Social Determinants of Health, and the author of 'Status Syndrome', a book that examines how social standing directly affects health and life expectancy. 

    In his recent inaugural speech to the House of Commons as Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson MP paid tribute to the importance of Sir Michael's work: "The G8 has committed eight billion dollars to the Global Fund, for tackling malaria, TB and AIDS, and we will continue to back the WHO mission on the Social Determinants of Health. Indeed, I will convene a global conference on health inequalities, following the publication of the Commission's report, which is due in May, drawing together our knowledge and identifying clear areas for action."

    Yet another high-profile figure has recently referenced Sir Michael's work, this time the American social commentator and filmmaker Michael Moore, in his new film about the American health care system, 'Sicko'.

    Mr Moore is quoted as stating: "In a study of older Americans and Brits, the Brits had less of almost every major disease. Even the poorest Brit can expect to live longer than the richest American." This is a reference to the paper "Disease and Disadvantage in the United States and in England," co-authored by Sir Michael, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006.

    To find out more, use the links at the top of this article