Third edition released of influential book exploring social determinants of health

Dennis Raphael
Dennis Raphael

The third edition of a highly influential book written by York University Professor Dennis Raphael was released May 1, and offers updates and extended analysis to the first and second editions of Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives (Canadian Scholar’s Press).

2016_Social-Determinants_3E_CVRThe book’s first volume was published in 2004 as the result of a 2002 York University-led national conference on the accounting of the state and quality of 10 related areas of health policy and activity.

“There is little doubt that it really stimulated discussions about role of public policy and how it affects people’s living and working conditions,” said Raphael of the first and second editions.

Raphael, professor of Health Policy and Management and Graduate Program director, Health Policy and Equity, says the third edition presents new scholarship on the ideological and paradigmatic barriers to addressing the social determinants of health by those in the health field and makers of public policy. It also documents attempts being made to overcome these barriers.

In addition to updating the material presented in the second edition, there is greater focus on:

  • the political pathways and mechanisms that explain how the social determinants of health come to be distributed amongst the population;
  • early childhood development in Canada in relation to other developed nations;
  • Indigenous health and its determinants;
  • public policy and the social safety net; and
  • the growing network of civil society organizations addressing the inequitable distribution of the social determinants of health.

These works represent a unique undertaking in the social determinants of health area as they bring together scholarship by those working in early childhood education and care, education and literacy, employment and working conditions, food security, gender, health services, housing, income and its distribution, social exclusion, the social safety net, and unemployment and job insecurity with those whose work specifically focuses on the health effects of these areas, said Raphael.

Dennis Raphael
Dennis Raphael

The social determinants of health concept was first taken up by pioneering public health units across Canada who helped shift the discussion of health away from biomedical and behavioural risks toward emphasizing living conditions as the primary determinants of individual and population health. United Ways of Canada, social planning councils, and numerous other non–health care agencies striving to improve the quality of life of Canadians drew upon the social determinants of health concept in their activities. They have now been joined by influential health care focused organizations such as the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Nurses Association. Even the Canadian Senate and the Health Council of Canada have reported on their importance.

The aim of Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives is to promote more accurate public understandings and public policy making in support of health.

For more on the book, visit