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Health equity and the social determinants of health

Health equity is achieved when individuals can achieve their full health potential. Conversely, equity is undermined when preventable and avoidable systematic conditions constrain life choices.

Systematic conditions are largely the social and economic factors known as the social determinants of health. The World Health Organization defines the social determinants of health as the circumstances in which people are born, develop, live and age. They include:

  • income and income distribution
  • early life
  • education
  • housing
  • food security
  • employment and working conditions
  • unemployment and job security
  • social safety net
  • social inclusion and exclusion
  • health services

The CMA believes the social determinants of health can have a larger impact on individual and population health than the health care system. The CMA also believes that any actions to improve health and tackle health inequity must address the social determinants and their impact on daily life.

Physicians and the social determinants of health