Health Inequalities

A reading list for considering Health Inequalities within the context of designing Health Promotion interventions.

By Sir Michael Marmot

Marmot, M. (2017). Social justice, epidemiology and health inequalities. European Journal of Epidemiology, 32(7), 537-546.

Marmot, M. (2015). The health gap: the challenge of an unequal world. The Lancet, 386(10011), 2442-2444.

Background reading on Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum's theories of capabilities

Tengland, P. A. (2020). Health and capabilities: a conceptual clarification. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 23(1), 25-33.

On differing definitions and measurements

Albert-Ballestar, S., García-Altés, A. Measuring health inequalities: a systematic review of widely used indicators and topics. Int J Equity Health 20, 73 (2021).

McCartney, G., Popham, F., McMaster, R., & Cumbers, A. (2019). Defining health and health inequalities. Public Health, 172, 22-30.

On Social Determinants more broadly

Sallis, J. F., Owen, N. (2015) Ecological models of health behavior. In Glanz et al. Health behavior: theory, research, and practice. (5th ed.) Jossey-Bass, 43-64. (e-book)

Braveman, P., Egerter, S., & Williams, D. R. (2011). The social determinants of health: coming of age. Annual Review of Public Health, 32, 381-398.

Phelan, J. C., Link, B. G., & Tehranifar, P. (2010). Social conditions as fundamental causes of health inequalities: theory, evidence, and policy implications. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51(1_suppl), S28-S40.

Golden, S. D., & Earp, J. A. L. (2012). Social ecological approaches to individuals and their contexts: twenty years of health education & behavior health promotion interventions. Health education & behavior, 39(3), 364-372.

Dorling, D. (2013). Think Piece. In Place of Fear: Narrowing health inequalities

On what works (and doesn't)

Thomson, K., Hillier-Brown, F., Todd, A., McNamara, C., Huijts, T., & Bambra, C. (2018). The effects of public health policies on health inequalities in high-income countries: an umbrella review. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 869.

Baum, F., & Fisher, M. (2014). Why behavioural health promotion endures despite its failure to reduce health inequities. Sociology of health & illness, 36(2), 213-225.

Donkin A, Goldblatt P, Allen J, et al (2018) Global action on the social determinants of health BMJ Global Health 3:e000603.

Frohlich, K. L., & Potvin, L. (2008). Transcending the known in public health practice: the inequality paradox: the population approach and vulnerable populations. American journal of public health, 98(2), 216-221.

Kriznik, N. M., Kinmonth, A. L., Ling, T., & Kelly, M. P. (2018). Moving beyond individual choice in policies to reduce health inequalities: the integration of dynamic with individual explanations. Journal of Public Health, 40(4), 764-775.

On the framing of Inequality and how this can be problematic

Lynch, J. (2017). Reframing inequality? The health inequalities turn as a dangerous frame shift. Journal of Public Health, 39(4), 653-660.

On what Health Promoters can do on the ground

Pedersen, P. V., Hjelmar, U., Høybye, M. T., & Rod, M. H. (2017). Can inequality be tamed through boundary work? A qualitative study of health promotion aimed at reducing health inequalities. Social science & medicine, 185, 1-8.

On perpetuating Health Inequalities through Health Promotion

Lorenc, T., Petticrew, M., Welch, V., & Tugwell, P. (2013). What types of interventions generate inequalities? Evidence from systematic reviews. J Epidemiol Community Health, 67(2), 190-193.

White M, Adams J, Heywood P. (2009) How and why do interventions that increase health overall widen inequalities within populations? In Social inequality and public health. Edited by Babones SJ. Bristol: Policy Press 64–81.

Wiltshire, G., Lee, J., & Williams, O. (2019). Understanding the reproduction of health inequalities: Physical activity, social class and Bourdieu’s habitus. Sport, Education and Society, 24(3), 226-240.

Helpful PHE Resources

PHE Wider Determinants Tool

Closing the health gap and reducing inequalities

Health Profile for England

Public Health Matters Blog (Health Inequalities tag) -

Health Equity Assessment Tool (HEAT) (2020)-

Health Inequities and COVID19

Bambra, C., Riordan, R., Ford, J., & Matthews, F. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and health inequalities. J Epidemiol Community Health.

Kawachi, I. (2020) COVID-19 and the ‘rediscovery’ of health inequities, International Journal of Epidemiology, , dyaa159,

Recommended Books

Schrecker, T., & Bambra, C. (2015). How politics makes us sick: Neoliberal epidemics. Springer.

Bartley, M. (2016). Health inequality: an introduction to concepts, theories and methods. John Wiley & Sons.

Marmot, M. (2015). The health gap: the challenge of an unequal world. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2010). The spirit level: why equality is better for everyone. Penguin UK.

Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2018). The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Wellbeing Allen Lane


Thanks to @jana_semrau for the Frohlich and Lorenc suggestions.