Social determinants & health inequalities

Health inequalities are preventable and unjust differences in health status experienced by certain population groups. People in lower socio-economic groups are more likely to experience chronic ill-health and die earlier than those who are more advantaged. Health inequalities are not only apparent between people of different socio-economic groups – they exist between different genders and different ethnic groups.

Health inequalities are generally observed along a social gradient. This means that the better your social circumstances, such as higher income or education, the better your chance of enjoying good health and a longer life. There is considerable evidence of health inequalities in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The causes of health inequality are complex but they do not arise by chance.  The social, economic and environmental conditions in which we live strongly influence health. These conditions are known as the social determinants of health, and are largely the results of public policy.

Causes of health inequalities

(Diagram Source: Dahlgren and Whitehead 1991)

IPH work on social determinants and health inequalities

IPH develops quality policy-relevant evidence on health inequalities on the island. We also support the evaluation of initiatives that tackle inequalities to help extract information on what works. We then support the translation of this knowledge into policy and practice.

IPH supports the development of policies to reduce health inequalities through

At European level, we have been the Irish partner in the Crossing the Bridges project  which developed coordinated and strengthened efforts to tackle health inequalities across Europe.

IPH partners on social determinants and health inequalities

IPH is works with

  • Department of Health (ROI)
  • Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (NI)
  • Public Health Agency
  • Health Service Executive (HSE) Health Inequalities Group
  • UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health (NI) led by QUB
  • Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources
  • Department of Social Protection