SDOH pioneer Sir Michael Marmot elected next president of the World Medical Association

Exciting news, Sir Michael Marmot is president-elect of the World Medical Association! 

Sir Michael has been one of the leaders in establishing and popularizing the concept of the social determinants of health (SDOH) and their role in influencing whether people lives will be long or short, whether they will be ill or well. Here at Upstream, we want to recognize and celebrate the work people are doing around the SDOH. Sir Michael Marmot is perhaps the pre-eminent example of an upstream thinking in action.

 
From his work on the famous Whitehall II studies of the 1980s to his role as Chair of the World Health Organization's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health he has been a tireless champion for improving the health of the world's people by addressing the conditions in which they live. 
"There is much that we can do towards improving health and promoting health equity. It is a highly ethical concern."
 
In his inspiring acceptance speech he describes himself as being on "a mission to improve global health equity through action on the social determinants for health." It is clear that this requires action beyond health care, with change at all levels of government. However, in his new position, he has stated an intention to give greater voice to the role of physicians in directly addressing health inequities in the practice of their profession. "Not only should the medical voice be heard in policies that span the social sectors, but social determinants of health should be much more a focus for doctors. There is much that we can do towards improving health and promoting health equity. It is a highly ethical concern."
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Ryan relegated to Kids Corner as Sir Michael Marmot expounds and expands on the ideas in A Healthy Society. Photo credit: Kim Elliott from rabble.ca 

I had the great pleasure of meeting Sir Michael in Yellowknife, NWT, where he was a keynote speaker at the 2012 General Council meeting of the Canadian Medical Association. He was kind enough to offer a few words of introduction at the local launch of my own book that deals with the social determinants of health, A Healthy Society. I was honoured he had read and enjoyed the book, and delighted to participate in a rich and humorous discussion. 

He did, however, object to one section of the book, in which I quoted Dr. Dennis Raphael who has described the social determinants of health as a concept existing in a “Phantom Zone,” well known to academics but failing to make the leap into the consciousness of decision-makers or the general public. Marmot said that disconnect no longer applies, and cited the CMA meeting as an example that these concepts are becoming mainstream and that the public is ready for ideas such as these to influence policy. 
The momentum behind the social determinants of health concept is growing
 
I think he's right, and that the momentum behind the social determinants of health concept is growing. The response to Upstream in its first year certainly tells me there's an appetite for this kind of thinking. As for the CMA, it has continued to demonstrate the growing commitment of medical professionals to addressing the determinants of health, giving greater hope to those who would see this concept lead us to a healthier world. The election of Sir Michael Marmot to the presidency of the World Medical Association takes that a step further, giving real hope of a realignment of the not only the medical profession but of the wider public discourse toward what really matters, which is to say what really makes us well.

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