Social determinants of health The social (or wider) determinants of health refer to the social, cultural, political, economic, commercial and environmental factors that shape the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age


Some key social determinants of health are: our education and employment opportunities; our housing; our social networks; and where we live and the extent it facilitates exercise, a good diet and social connection. The Health Foundation’s programme of work on healthy lives complements our portfolio of work to improve health care delivery, and draws on our experience of making change happen in complex systems.

Our recent work and content on this topic is listed below.

Webinar: Health in early years – how can we improve opportunities to live a healthy life?

19 October 2021

Join us for this webinar to hear fresh insights – and their implications for policy – from two important new initiatives. Speakers from the ActEarly research consortium and the Maternal and Child Heal...


Webinar: Systems science in public health: turning thought into action

Tuesday 2 November 2021, 12.30-13.30

Join us for the second webinar in this series sharing emerging findings from UKPRP-funded projects and exploring their implications for policy.

A whole-government approach to improving health

October 2021

Concerted, holistic action needs to be taken to create the conditions that improve health. We set out the action that central government needs to take to act purposefully as a system, rather than as a...

Five tests for levelling up health

12 October 2021

Expectations around the imminent levelling up white paper are high. But will it truly seize the opportunity to level up health? Here are our five tests to assess the white paper's level of commitment.

Health is wealth – investors can no longer afford to ignore it

8 October 2021

National and local governments have the power to address the root causes of health, and they do, to an extent. But investors and businesses have considerable agency over commercial health determinants...

Why greater investment in the public health grant should be a priority

5 October 2021

The public health grant has been cut by 24% on a real-terms per capita basis since 2015/16. We explore trends in need for public health services and estimate how much it would cost to restore the publ...

Cuts to public health run counter to levelling up, say leading health organisations

Press release
5 October 2021

New analysis by the Health Foundation reveals that the public health grant has been cut by 24% in real terms per capita since 2015/16, and the Association of Directors of Public Health call for urgent...

How could the Health and Care Bill strengthen action on health inequalities?

Long read

The NHS has an important role in narrowing health inequalities, but progress has been slow and the pandemic has shown more tangible action is needed. We explore how the Bill could be used to bolster a...

The cut to Universal Credit is set to widen health inequalities when the government has promised to ‘level up’ health

28 September 2021

David Finch, assistant director of Healthy Lives, writes about why the £20 uplift to Universal Credit must be made permanent.

Lifelong learning and levelling up: building blocks for good health

Long read

Why is further education critical to the government’s levelling up agenda? Our analysis explores some challenges and opportunities.

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