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Keywords:

  • burden of oral disease;
  • inequality;
  • intervention for oral health for all;
  • policy for oral health;
  • research for oral health

Petersen PE, Kwan S. Equity, social determinants and public health programmes – the case of oral health. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2011; 39: 481–487. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S

Abstract –  The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health issued the 2008 report ‘Closing the gap within a generation – health equity through action on the social determinants of health’ in response to the widening gaps, within and between countries, in income levels, opportunities, life expectancy, health status, and access to health care. Most individuals and societies, irrespective of their philosophical and ideological stance, have limits as to how much unfairness is acceptable. In 2010, WHO published another important report on ‘Equity, Social Determinants and Public Health Programmes’, with the aim of translating knowledge into concrete, workable actions. Poor oral health was flagged as a severe public health problem. Oral disease and illness remain global problems and widening inequities in oral health status exist among different social groupings between and within countries. The good news is that means are available for breaking poverty and reduce if not eliminate social inequalities in oral health. Whether public health actions are initiated simply depends on the political will. The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986) and subsequent charters have emphasized the importance of policy for health, healthy environments, healthy lifestyles, and the need for orientation of health services towards health promotion and disease prevention. This report advocates that oral health for all can be promoted effectively by applying this philosophy and some major public health actions are outlined.