Discussion Paper: A social Determinants Approach to Maternal Health

11 Oct 2011

The fundamental rationale of the social determinants of health approach is not only that social determinants shape health outcomes but that it is possible to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequities by analyzing and acting on the most influential of those social determinants. The social determinants paradigm underscores the need to look beyond sectoral borders in order to create synergies across health, development, and human rights communities. Maternal health provides a salient example of how adopting a social determinants approach can build synergies across development sectors to accelerate progress on a specific health issue. Furthermore, the epidemiology of maternal health demonstrates that maternal deaths remain unacceptably high despite some progress and that their distribution is deeply unequal across the world’s geographical regions and within individual countries. As these large differences cannot be explained by biological or behavioral risks alone, they must be due to social dynamics related to how societies are structured and governed.  In other words, these social dynamics direct us to look beyond the health sector toward development and human rights strategies for solutions to maternal mortality and morbidity.

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