Priorities for research on equity and health: towards an equity-focused health research agenda

A 2009 World Health Assembly resolution on reducing health inequities through action on social determinants of health [1] calls for stakeholders, including researchers and research funders, to give this topic high priority. In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) established a Task Force on Research Priorities to outline a global research agenda on equity and social determinants of health. Its 2005 report [2] contributed to the selection of themes for nine Knowledge Networks set up by WHO to support the Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH) during 2005–2008. CSDH defined health equity as the absence of systematic differences in health, between and within countries, that are avoidable by reasonable action. Using health equity as the foundation of its approach, CSDH concluded [3] that "[s]ocial injustice is killing people on a grand scale" and made three overarching recommendations: improve people's daily living conditions; tackle the inequitable distribution of power, money, and resources; and measure and understand the problem and assess the impact of action. CSDH emphasized that knowledge gaps must not be used as a reason for postponing action on the ample body of evidence already available, but also highlighted the need for ongoing research with a focus on social determinants of health and health equity.