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Good lives, good health

How the voluntary sector helps to keep people well

By Sir Michael Marmot 16 November 2017

Supported by the Health Foundation, NPC has teamed up with the Institute of Health Equity (IHE) to explore the role charities play in addressing the social determinants of health. In this, his foreword to the research report, Sir Michael Marmot—Director of IHE and leading expert on health inequalities—explains the importance of understanding charities’ contribution in this area.



Health and well-being are much needed assets central to the lives of individuals and the communities in which they live.

Levels of health and well-being are also important measures of the degree to which society is meeting fundamental human needs. However, stark health inequalities exist and are clearly demonstrated by differences in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy.

These inequalities are unjust and unfair, arising because of inequalities in the social, economic, political, cultural and environmental conditions in which people live. People are unnecessarily living shorter lives with longer periods of ill health.

Action is needed to address these inequalities in health and well-being that affect almost all of us. Health care is important, especially when people get sick, but promoting health is as much about keeping people well, or preventing ill health, as it is about treating them.

To improve life expectancy and healthy life expectancy across the social gradient it is essential to focus on the social determinants of health: our family life, friends and neighbours, education and work life, our resources and where we live, which all play an integral part in determining how well we are.

The voluntary sector plays a fundamental role in working with local populations to support families and communities, promote education and good work, and ensure our surroundings promote health. So I very much welcome NPC’s new report Keeping us well: How non-health charities address the social determinants of health. Underpinned by the Institute of Health Equity’s Evidence Review, and made possible by the support of the Health Foundation, the report aims to help charities that do not have a specific health focus understand the evidence of the social determinants of health.

When non-health charities take action on the determinants of health they are working in the cause of social justice. Highlighting and developing the voluntary sector’s action on the determinants of health has the potential to create further impetus to an important movement, one that must now gain momentum if we are all to live longer, healthier, lives.

Click here for the full report, including short guides on Family, Friends and communities, Housing, Education and skills, Good work, Money and resources and Our surroundings.

Join us at one of our upcoming roadshow events on the topic in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Bristol.