Sir Michael Marmot at Harvard

February 12, 2010

Yesterday, 11 February 2010, Sir Michael Marmot has published his final report “Fair societies, healthy lives”.

I was one of the lucky few to meet him personally at a seminar held mid January on ‘Social Determinants of Global Population Health’, hosted by the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and led by Director Lisa Berkman. At this seminar, Sir M.Marmot gave us already an insight into the findings of this now published report.

Professor  Sir  Michael  Marmot is Director  of  the  International  Institute  for  Society  and Health and MRC  Research Professor  of  Epidemiology  and  Public Health,  University  College,  London.

“We are dealing with these huge inequities within countries and the inequities between countries and they overlap. This is a problem for all of us…. No country has cause for complacency,” Marmot said in his lecture.

“The reason for taking action on the social determinants of health in order to promote health equity is one of social justice.”

Michael  Marmot  has  been  at  the  forefront  of  research  into health inequalities  for  the past  30  years.  He  was  a  member  of  the Royal  Commission  on  Environmental Pollution  for  six  years.  In 2000  he  was  knighted  by  Her  Majesty  The  Queen for services to  Epidemiology  and  understanding  health  inequalities.

It was in November 2008, that Professor Sir Michael Marmot was asked by the English Secretary of State for Health to chair an independent review to propose the most effective evidence-based strategies for reducing health inequalities in England from 2010. The strategy should include policies and interventions that address the social determinants of health inequalities.

In a few months Sir Michael Marmot and his team have come up with a remarkable piece of work, which not only focuses on health inequalities in England, but also leads the way on how to tackle the problem of health inequalities worldwide. The report is available at

With respect to the social situation in England, (not by coincidence  a country which has also the best data and documentation), the report gives 6 recommendations:

1. give every child  the best start possible

2. enable all children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives

3. create fair employment and decent work for all

4. ensure a healthy standard of living for all

5. create and develop sustainable places and communities, and

6. strengthen the role and impact of ill-health prevention.

So, quite a challenge, but not irrealistic; for each of the 6 recommendations, the report gives a practical example, situated in England, which has worked as is shown by quantitative and/or qualitative data.

During a short private discussion, Sir Michael Marmot and I spoke about the need to have solid and reliable statistical data base – in casu for Europe – on health and social determinants whereby health interview surveys harmonized across countries will play a major role.


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