With life expectancy rates differing by up to nearly 50 years between countries and more than 20 years within the same country, concerted efforts to close the health gap gained new momentum today under a charter for health promotion in a globalized world adopted at a United Nations-sponsored conference in Bangkok, Thailand.
Endorsed by 700 participants from more than 100 countries at the 6th Global Conference on Health Promotion, co-hosted by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the Thai Health Ministry, the Bangkok Charter for Health Promotion identifies major actions needed to address the determinants of health by engaging the many actors and stakeholders critical to achieving health for all.
“It is not inevitable that there should be a spread of life expectancy of 48 years among countries and 20 years or more within countries. A burgeoning volume of research identifies social factors at the root of much of these inequalities in health,” Professor Michael Marmot, Chairman of WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, told the gathering.
The challenge of the Bangkok Charter has been to determine how best to respond to the many global changes and trends that are critically affecting health and well-being and how to evolve health promotion strategies to address these inequalities and to be more relevant to the demands of the new millennium.
It highlights the growing double burden of communicable and chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, and the health effects of globalization such as widening inequities, rapid urbanization and the degradation of environments.
The Charter calls for policy coherence, investment and partnering across governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector to work towards four key commitments. These include ensuring that health promotion is central to the global development agenda, that it is a core responsibility of all governments and part of good corporate practice, as well as a focus of community and civil society actions.
It was developed through open consultation involving participants from a wide range of groups and organizations around the globe and builds on the Ottawa Charter of 1986 establishing the core principles of Health Promotion which seek to identify the root causes, or determinants, of health.
These are social and economic factors determining health status such as income, education, profession, working conditions, mental status, which in turn can affect risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, eating habits and physical inactivity.