Health in global context; beyond the social determinants of health?

A. Krumeich*, A. Meershoek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The rise of the social determinants of health (SDH) discourse on the basis of statistical evidence that correlates ill health to SDH and pictures causal pathways in comprehensive theoretical frameworks led to widespread awareness that health and health disparities are the outcome of complex pathways of interconnecting SDH. In this paper we explore whether and how SDH frameworks can be translated to effectively inform particular national health policies. To this end we identified major challenges for this translation followed by reflections on ways to overcome them. Most important challenges affecting adequate translation of these frameworks into concrete policy and intervention are 1) overcoming the inclination to conceptualize SDH as mere barriers to health behavior to be modified by lifestyle interventions by addressing them as structural factors instead; 2) obtaining sufficient in-depth insight in and evidence for the exact nature of the relationship between SDs and health; 3) to adequately translate the general determinants and pathways into explanations for ill health and limited access to health care in local settings; 4) to develop and implement policies and other interventions that are adjusted to those local circumstances. We conclude that to transform generic SDH models into useful policy tools and to prevent them to transform in SDH themselves, in depth understanding of the unique interplay between local, national and global SDH in a local setting, gathered by ethnographic research, is needed to be able to address structural SD in the local setting and decrease health inequity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number23506
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal Health Action
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • social determinants of health
  • health equity
  • health disparities
  • globalization
  • health promotion guidelines
  • evidence for practice
  • evidence for policy
  • local context
  • local adaptation

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