Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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The Social Determinants of Health Approach; Looking beyond health, broadening perspectives

A big focus of our social media campaign will be around the social determinants of health.

We will have interviews with some of the key global actors and experts, as well as details of an innovative ICT / e-learning project – follow us on twitter to learn about the schedule & news.


Details of the WHO co-hosted session;

SESSION: PS3.5:  Wednesday 29th January, 15.30 – 17.30

For meeting scientific programme PMAC website;

Title:  Looking beyond health: broadening perspectives

Background / Overview

The World Conference on Social Determinants of Health in 2011 identified that the social determinants and equity agenda must be addressed at a global governance level through the leadership of the United Nations and its various agencies.

In linking the social determinants of health with environment and sustainable development agendas, the United Nations conference on sustainable development (Rio +20) set out a common vision, seeking to mainstream sustainable development at all levels, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects and recognizing their interlinkages. One of the main health specific development goals being considered is reducing the burden of the major noncommunicable diseases.

The WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases sets out overarching principles and approaches, including the need for multi-sectoral action, the goal of universal health coverage and in particular the adoption of a life course approach.  Social determinants impact all phases of the life course and as such, are key drivers of health inequity.

The Report “Working for Health Equity: The Role of Health Professionals” recognizes that the health workforce is well placed to initiate and develop services that take into account and attempt to improve the social context in which people live and work, however they are often under-utilized for this purpose. Health professionals, while predominantly employed within health systems, very often have positions and responsibilities that are linked to other sectors (e.g. education, social welfare and housing). 

Transformative health professional education must;

  • encompass the social determinants of health to address health care delivery in a holistic manner.  The training and education of all cadres of health professionals should include ways to address the impact of social determinants of health on their clients, so that health professionals are prepared with the knowledge to diagnose the social causes that underlie ill health and the unfair distribution of health; 
  • provide the health workforce with the knowledge and practical approaches on how to work with sectors that lie outside health, yet significantly impact health, will facilitate health workers to drive multi sectoral action for health.


  1. Describe how UN development agenda could provide the required global governance and leadership framework to enable consistency and coherence on the social determinants of health across all sectors;
  2. Discuss the role of health professionals as multi-sector actors in advocating, communicating and developing partnerships to address social determinants of health as a strategy for decreasing inequities in health;
  3. Identify ways to reduce health inequities through transformative education and training of  health professionals with a particular emphasis on mid level providers and the community health workforce; 
  4. Discuss strategies that can be undertaken by the health sector as the employer of HRH to address SDH (incentives for working across sectors, use of employment and distribution of HRH to reduce inequities in health).
  • Dr Maria Neira, WHO Department of Public Health and the Environment, Switzerland
  • Professor Sir Michael Marmot, University College London, Institute of Health Equity, UK
  • Dr Margaret Mungherera, Vice President World Medical Association, Nigeria
  • Prof David Williams, Global Oral Heath, Bart's and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK
  • Dr Mary Maudin, Medical University of South Carolina, USA
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