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Social Determinants of Cardiovascular Diseases


Social determinants of health can be understood as the social conditions in which individuals live and work; conditions that are shaped by the distribution of power, income and resources, as much on a global and national level as on a local level. Social determinants of cardiovascular diseases are found largely outside the healthcare and preventative healthcare systems; but it is important to think in terms of chains of cause and effect, which enable us to see these determinants at work within the system of curative and preventative care, including the management of traditional risk factors. Taking a dynamic perspective on these social determinants of health, and in particular viewing them in a biological and epidemiological context, emphasizes the fact that intervention as early in life as possible is desirable in order to prevent cardiovascular diseases. It is important to act early, before childhood adversities in these critical periods are permanently or irrevocably recorded in the body. In terms of behaviour, focussing health education on adults runs counter to the fact that, with age, it is increasingly difficult to change our behaviour and to overcome biological damage already inflicted. In an area where attention has long been focussed on individual risk factors, underlining the fact that these factors act from infancy allows us to highlight the collective influences on the development of these diseases. Reflecting on health determinants in this way suggests that perhaps the population strategy proposed by Geoffrey Rose may lead to an increase in social inequalities if the modest decrease in risk factors, for example in terms of nutrition, involves the population categories initially most privileged.


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Correspondence to Thierry Lang MD, PhD.

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Lang, T., Lepage, B., Schieber, AC. et al. Social Determinants of Cardiovascular Diseases. Public Health Rev 33, 601–622 (2011).

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