Lifepath as a positive example of research in health inequalities
Ten years ago, as the financial crisis spread across the world, the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health released its final report. Led by Sir Michael Marmot, the commissioners claimed that the “unequal distribution of health damaging experiences” was associated with the global imbalances in the distribution of power and money. Ten years later, a new reportfrom the same commission, addresses the topics of health inequalities and social justice, and calls on the WHO and all governments to lead global action on the social determinants of health with the aim of achieving health equity.
In a commentary on Critical Public Health, Ted Schrecker – professor of global health policy at the Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University – highlights some key developments in this decade on such a topic. He mentions the increase of studies focused on social determinants of health, the growing recognition of the political origins of health inequality in global health policy analysis, and the advances made in understanding the physiological mechanisms by which chronic stress associated with privation and insecurity impairs health.
In his analysis, Schrecker also mentions “the remarkable Lifepath consortium of cohort studies linking epidemiology and biological markers over the lifespan”, since “Lifepath investigators, like earlier commentators, note the limitations of a focus on behavioural risk factors and have underscored this point in a recent systematic review”. Schrecker claims that initiatives like Lifepath will help to expand the amount of evidence in support of the WHO Commission’s perspective, which is of paramount importance in the future debates over global health policies and growing inequalities.