Defining health and health inequalities

McCartney, G. , Popham, F. , McMaster, R. and Cumbers, A. (2019) Defining health and health inequalities. Public Health, 172, pp. 22-30. (doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2019.03.023) (PMID:31154234) (PMCID:PMC6558275)

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Objectives: To examine existing definitions of health and health inequalities and to synthesise the most useful of these using explicit rationale and the most parsimonious text. Study design: Literature review and synthesis. Methods: Existing definitions of health and health inequalities were identified, and their normative properties were extracted and then critically appraised. Using explicit reasoning, new definitions, synthesising the most useful aspects of existing definitions, were created. Results: A definition of health as a structural, functional and emotional state that is compatible with effective life as an individual and as a member of society and a definition of health inequalities as the systematic, avoidable and unfair differences in health outcomes that can be observed between populations, between social groups within the same population or as a gradient across a population ranked by social position are proposed. Population health is a less commonly used term but can usefully be defined to encompass the average, distribution and inequalities in health within a society. Conclusions: Clarifying what is meant by the terms health and health inequalities, and the assumptions, emphasis and values that different definitions contain, is important for public health research, practice and policy.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Popham, Dr Frank and McMaster, Professor Robert and McCartney, Professor Gerard and Cumbers, Professor Andrew
Authors: McCartney, G., Popham, F., McMaster, R., and Cumbers, A.
Subjects:R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Public Health
ISSN (Online):1476-5616
Published Online:31 May 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in Public Health 172: 22-30
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727651Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in HealthAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/13HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
727651Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in HealthAlastair LeylandOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU13HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit