UCL News


Professor Sir Michael Marmot wins prestigious health services award

15 May 2008


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  • WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health
  • William B Graham Prize
  • Professor Sir Michael Marmot (UCL Population Health) has won the William B Graham Prize - the most prestigious American award health services researchers can receive.

    Selection committee chair, Dr Thomas Rundall, said: "Michael Marmot's research has revolutionised our thinking about the causes of heart disease and other illnesses by documenting that one's socio-economic position, and in particular the psychic benefit of being in control of one's life, is itself an important determinant of health. His work has transformed our understanding of health inequities and the policies being designed to reduce them."

    Professor Marmot was knighted for his services to services to epidemiology and understanding health inequalities in 2000. Sir Michael is currently chairing the World Health Organisation's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health (CSDH). Its final report, to be handed to the Director of the WHO by the end of the year, will challenge the way governments currently draw up health policy. 

    The content is the result of a groundbreaking collaboration between the WHO, the 19 influential Commissioners (including Sir Michael), national policy makers and advisors, researchers, and members of civil society organisations. The WHO set up the Commission in 2005. Since then it has collected, collated and reviewed global evidence to support final report 'call to action' policy recommendations, which, if followed, will reduce health inequality substantially worldwide within a generation.

    Sir Michael has led a research group on health inequalities at UCL for the past 30 years. He is principal investigator of the Whitehall Studies of British civil servants, which uncovered a new phenomenon known as the 'social gradient of health' - where, surprisingly, at every level, those who achieve higher educational qualifications have better health and longer life expectancy than the level below.

    Commenting on receiving the award, which is due to be presented to him at a ceremony in Washington DC on 7 June 2008, Sir Michael said: "For 30 years I have had a passion to understand the causes of social inequalities in health. For the last 10 of those that passion has extended to using the evidence to try and tackle the problem. To improve the health of those socially disadvantaged is a reward in itself. To receive a prestigious award for this work is a way of highlighting this whole field of endeavour in which many of us have been involved. As my Commission's report will say, though, we still have a very long way to go."

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