World Conference on Social Determinants of Health

The Government of Canada participated in the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health in Brazil, October 19-21, 2011.

Hosted by the Government of Brazil and organized by the World Health Organization, this conference focused on:

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones led the Canadian delegation.

The conference provided an important opportunity to work with Canadian and international partners to identify actions that can be taken to reduce health inequalities by addressing the social determinants of health – the underlying environmental, social and economic conditions that affect health and well-being.

The Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health(Rio Declaration), developed by Member States, was presented at the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health on October 21, 2011. The Declaration outlines global commitments to reduce health inequalities and will be brought forward for endorsement at the World Health Assembly in 2012.

The World Health Organization reported on regional and Member State action on the Rio Declaration since 2012 at the World Health Assembly in May 2015. In the lead up to the World Health Organization's reporting, the Public Health Agency of Canada developed a report on Canadian actions related to the five themes of the Rio Declaration: Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health: A Snapshot of Canadian Actions 2015. The Report is a compilation of summaries of recent initiatives or tools advancing health equity across levels of government and in various non-government organizations, which align with the Rio Declaration.

Helping Canadians achieve good health

Social and health inequalities - differences in economic circumstances, education, living conditions and the physical environment – can prevent some Canadians from being as healthy as others.

To help address the social determinants of health and health inequalities, the Government of Canada:

  • invests in research to help improve health equity, including a recent $21 million investment in 11 new research programs through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Public Health Agency of Canada;
  • helps to coordinate actions across Canada to strengthen the public health system, and shares knowledge and experiences with colleagues around the world;
  • funds projects, through the Innovation Strategy, that support the development, adaptation, implementation and evaluation of promising population health interventions to increase and strengthen population health action in Canada;
  • develops programs, such as the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program, the Community Action Program for Children, Aboriginal Head Start, and the Joint Consortium for School Health, to support the healthy development of children and youth, with a particular focus on children in certain Aboriginal communities, children in low income and immigrant families, and children of single mothers;
  • works with our colleagues across federal departments, levels of government, communities and industries to better understand how social and economic structures, systems and policy approaches affect health, and how health and social gains can be better addressed collaboratively; and,
  • acts on the Declaration on Prevention and Promotion - an agreement by Canada's Health Ministers to work together and with others to prioritize the promotion of health and the prevention of disease, disability and injury. Through the Declaration, Ministers recognize that actions from within and outside government are necessary to ensure the conditions that determine our overall health. Moreover, many of the prerequisites for good health lie outside the jurisdiction of the health sector.

The Government of Canada is committed to maintaining the momentum on addressing social determinants of health generated by the Conference in Brazil. We will continue to work with partners to develop, test and document effective approaches to address the factors that affect our health, to help Canadians live longer, healthier lives; improve the sustainability of the health care system; and contribute to a stronger economy.

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