The social, cultural and economic forces that shape people’s daily living conditions are called the ‘social determinants’ or the ‘causes of the causes’ of health. When these determinants result in an unfair and avoidable distribution of health in society, for example between the rich and poor, between men and women, or between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, they are considered health inequities.
Many of these determinants and health inequities are affected by political and policy processes outside of the health sector. For example, education, employment, the built environment, access to healthful commodities (e.g. nutritious food), as well as health care all affect the distribution of health in society.
Although evidence shows that policy interventions that target the social determinants improve health, translation of this evidence into policy has been slow. We believe this is because a focus on social determinants and health inequities raise many political and policy challenges which occur throughout the policy cycle – getting an issue onto the agenda and formulating, implementing and evaluating policy.
The aims of the Centre for Research Excellence in the Social Determinants of Health Equity (CRE-SDHE) are to:
• Understand how government policies can work more effectively to address the social determinants of health, so as to improve health and reduce health inequities.
• Increase understanding of the use of evidence in policy under conditions of multiple policy agendas and differences in power among groups.
• Build research capacity and undertake knowledge exchange so as to inform policy, generate political priority for health equity and improve the health of Australia’s most disadvantaged peoples.
In this seminar, we will present an overview of the CRE-SDHE with focus on Work Package 1 (agenda setting) and Work Package 4 (policy evaluation).
About the speakers
Sharon Friel is Professor of Health Equity and the Director of RegNet. Sharon is also Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy ANU. Sharon is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences and an ANU Public Policy Fellow. She is one of the foremost researchers internationally in the social determinants of health, and was nominated in 2014 by her international peers as one of the world’s most influential female leaders in global health. Sharon’s interests are in the role of structural factors in affecting health inequities, including trade and investment, urbanisation, food systems, and climate change; and the analysis of governance, policy and regulatory processes and their effectiveness at improving health equity.
Ashley Schram is currently working with the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in the Social Determinants of Health Equity testing the feasibility of different methodologies to evaluate the impact of multi-sectoral public policies on the social determinants of health and health equity outcomes. Prior to joining RegNet as a Research Fellow, Ashley completed her doctoral thesis in Population Health at the University of Ottawa on international trade and investment agreements and health, exploring the role of transnational corporations and international investment law.
Belinda Townsend is working with the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in the Social Determinants of Health Equity investigating the factors shaping the attention or neglect of health equity in policy agendas across multiple case studies. She earned her PhD in political science at Deakin University examining the history, conflicts and transformations in the evolution of global medicines governance.
Janice Lee is a PhD candidate under the supervision of Sharon Friel and is a recipient of the Scholarship on the Social Determinants of Health Equity, from the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) in the Social Determinants of Health Equity. Prior to her PhD, she was a research assistant to Professor Sharon Friel, studying the effects of climate change and policy impacts on social determinants of health and health equity. She carries on her research assistant’s work to her PhD work where she will be evaluating the health equity impacts of Income Management.