Environment and Health Risks: The Influence and Effects of Social Inequalities.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Significant social inequalities exist in the environmental burden of disease, both between and within countries. A framework model developed by WHO describes the mechanisms through which social inequalities may affect exposure to and the health outcomes from environmental risks. To support policy-makers in Member States of the WHO European Region, and as part of the preparatory process for the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in 2010, WHO has accumulated the available evidence on risk of injury, air pollution, inadequate living and working conditions and poor waste management, in order to assess the current knowledge. Further evidence reviews were carried out for vulnerable groups (children and gender-related) and for the expected effects of climate change. A group of expert advisers convened by WHO was asked to review and discuss the compiled evidence and produce a set of technical and policy recommendations on possible countermeasures. The expert group concluded that social determinants can significantly affect individuals’ exposure to environmental risk and that – although evidence is available only for certain countries– this can be considered a general issue for all Member States. Addressing this challenge, the expert group developed summary conclusions addressing the main issues and made recommendations for policy, technical and research-related action.