This month we are launching a new series of infographics and accompanying blogs and commentaries to describe and explain the social determinants of health in an accessible and engaging way.

These determinants include political, social, economic, environmental and cultural factors which shape the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age. Creating a healthy population requires greater action on these factors, not simply on treating ill health further down stream.

The first infographic shows the extent to which health is primarily shaped by factors outside the direct influence of health care and invites us to look at this bigger picture. It also highlights the gap of almost 20 years in health expectancy between people living in the most and least deprived areas of the UK – a gap that is explained not by our ability to see a doctor, but by differences in our experience of the things that make us healthy including good work, education, housing, resources, our physical environment and social connections.

As little as 10 per cent of a population's health and wellbeing is linked to access to health care. So what makes us healthy?

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In a companion blog, Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity at University College, London describes how poor social conditions give rise to what he terms ‘an epidemic of disempowerment’, and he illustrates this through the life of Glasgow-born ‘Jimmy’ whose experiences of disadvantage across the life course lead to his poor health and the risk of an early death. He also outlines six areas for action on the social determinants of health to improve the opportunities for people like Jimmy and help close the health gap.

Over the coming months, in eight further infographics we will explore with eye-catching facts, statistics and quotes how different social determinants influence our health.  Alongside each will be publishing blogs and interviews to capture both expert insights and the lived experience of people. In July, we focus on our surroundings, and how positive approaches to the built environment and access to green spaces can improve physical and mental health. Subsequent themes will be:

We will draw these themes together in a short animation in early 2018. By communicating useable data, information and concepts in a fresh and engaging way, we aim to stimulate a wider conversation about the social determinants of health. By presenting these infographics in sharable formats, we also hope that they will be a useful new resource to other organisations working to improve health. Look out for a new theme soon!

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McGovern L, Miller G, Hughes-Cromwick P. Health Policy Brief: The relative contribution of multiple determinants to health outcomes. Health Affairs. 21 August 2014.

Adam Smith. Wealth of Nations. 1776

Further reading


Mandy Walsh

Hello I would love to know more about this and how I can improve my impact where I live. We run a Playstreet every month and close the road and get the children outside playing. It's such a positive experience and you can feel the area literally change when we do it. I believe comunity is so important for health and have also looked at the Human Givens approach to health which identifies community and environmrnt as vital. However can be an uphill slot getting the message across sometimes, expectations need to be managed and it takes time.

Aliya Hayat

Infographic is very helpful for us to get different information.

Jane Landon

Hello Mandy,
We will be returning to the theme of what communities can do to improve health across the series of infographics that pick up different determinants of health over the coming months, so we will be sharing more that I hope you will find of interest.

Alex Hicks

Interesting to think of the bigger picture in relation to the infographic and the first graphic 'good work' in particular. Linked to your other blog about which Government department you would run for the day - it might be the department of health rather than the treasury, given the scale of the NHS in the UK as an employer and the ability have a positive impact on the workforce. Quite quickly then the other elements come into play as important components of creating a healthy and active workforce and could be used as a case study for the wider population, in the way Marmot's work did for the civil service in 2010.

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