The British Medical Association’s new report explains how doctors can use their expertise to act as community leaders to tackle health inequalities and explores how the social determinants of health impact on health – the conditions we are born, grow up, live, work and our gender and age.

According to the BMA’s report: Social Determinants of Health: what can doctors do?, doctors have become increasingly aware of the social gradient of inequalities in health, and its impact, as well as the impact this should
have on the targeting of care and ill health prevention.
They recognise that health inequalities are related to structural determinants such as age, income, education, occupation, gender, ethnicity and place of residence.

While these factors are not usually directly responsible for ill-health, they have been widely acknowledged as the causes of the causes of such condition. For example, while smoking may be cause of heart disease and lung cancer, the social, cultural and environmental factors are those largely determining whether an individual is more or less likely to pursue such unhealthy behaviour, and if they do start, what is the chance of their successful cessation rate.

Although the report mainly features examples of the UK health professional practice, the cases can be used to provide direction and framework for practices to be shaped in other national settings. The report highlights that while not every health professional has the chance and resources to change the life course of individual patients they can make a difference in other ways to reduce inequalities on a local, regional, national and even international level, by for example intervening with individual patients and their families, referring patients to professionals from welfare, employment, housing and debt advice services so that the underlying causes of their health problems can be addressed.


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