Socioeconomic determinants of health: towards a national research program and a policy and intervention agenda

Turrell, Gavin, Oldenburg, Brian F., Mcguffog, Ingrid, & Dent, Rebekah (1999) Socioeconomic determinants of health: towards a national research program and a policy and intervention agenda. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD.


This report has four primary objectives: 1. To review Australian research pertaining to socioeconomic health inequalities; 2. To provide a descriptive profile of Australia’s research capacity vis-à-vis socioeconomic health inequalities; 3. To critically examine the policies and interventions that have been suggested to reduce socioeconomic health inequalities; 4. To make a number of preliminary recommendations about the development of a national health inequalities research program and a policy and intervention agenda.

This report utilises a conceptual framework that identifies the multi-level and diverse determinants of socioeconomic health inequalities. The structure and content of the framework, and the identified relationships between each of its major components, are based on the existing scientific evidence. Its conceptualisation has also been informed by a broader understanding of the determinants of health. The framework consists of three discrete yet closely interrelated stages or levels, namely, upstream, midstream, and downstream. The upstream (or macro-level) factors include international influences, government policies, and the fundamental determinants of health (i.e. social, physical, economic and environmental). The midstream (or intermediate-level) factors include psychosocial factors, health-related behaviours and the role played by the health care system. The downstream (or micro-level) factors include changes to physiological systems and biological functioning brought about as a consequence of the influence of factors operating at the midstream and upstream levels.

Taken as a whole, the evidence on SES and health in Australia is unequivocal: those who occupy positions at lower levels of the socioeconomic hierarchy fare significantly worse in terms of their health. Specifically, persons variously classified as ‘low’ SES have higher mortality rates for most major causes of death, their morbidity profile indicates that they experience more ill-health (both physiological and psychosocial), and their use of health care services suggests that they are less likely to act to prevent disease or detect it at an asymptomatic stage. Moreover, socioeconomic differences in health are evident for both females and males at every stage of the life-course (birth, infancy, childhood and adolescence, and adulthood) and the relationship exists irrespective of how SES and health are measured.

The report considers some of the important and relevant components of the country’s existing research capacity and infrastructure vis-à-vis SES and health, and it examines the Australian performance in terms of its contribution to the international evidence base. By all accounts, the Australian research performance in this area, although hard to quantify precisely, has been significant both nationally and internationally. However, there are a relatively small number of universities and research centres that have made a very significant contribution. Considering the lack of critical research mass and the complexity of this area of research, the performance has been very impressive by any standards.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 585
Item Type: Book
Additional URLs:
Keywords: socioeconomic health inequalities, research, policy, intervention, Australia
ISBN: 0642393990
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 1999 Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Statement: This is the author’s manuscript version of the work. It is posted here with permission of the copyright owner for your personal use only. No further distribution is permitted. For more information about this book please contact the author. Author contact details:
Deposited On: 30 Nov 2004 00:00
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2015 23:15

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