Advancing health equity through action on Social Determinants of Health

The report of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, Closing the Gap in a Generation, challenged the international community to eliminate the “toxic combination of poor social policies and programs, unfair economic arrangements, and bad politics” that results in health inequities. An extensive body of multidisciplinary literature, much of which was synthesized by the Globalization Knowledge Network that supported the work of the Commission, identifies neoliberalism or “market fundamentalism” as a central element of that toxic combination. The international human rights framework (IHRF) potentially provides a basis for challenging policies that embody market fundamentalism.

Research questions:

1. How effectively, and under what conditions, has the IHRF been used as a basis for reducing health inequity by way of the social determinants of health?

2. What are its limitations in this respect, and what are the most promising areas for future research and institutional innovation?

3. What light does the research literature shed on the value of human rights as a challenge to market fundamentalism?