This article aims to analyze the relationships between health and its social determinants, initially presenting the concept of Social Determinants of Health (SDH) and the historical evolution of paradigms that account for the health/disease process at societal level since mid-1800's. The main advances and challenges in the study of SDH are presented with emphasis on the new approaches and frameworks to explain the complex relationships between the various levels of SDH and health outcomes. Based on these frameworks, some entry points for interventions on SDH and types of policies and programs to tackle health inequities are explored. Finally, the article presents the objectives, lines of actions and main activities developed by the National Commission on Social Determinants of Health, created in March 2005 to promote studies on SDH, to recommend policies for promotion of health equity and to mobilize sectors in society to promote awareness about the importance of SDH and the fight against health inequities.
Social determinants; equity; public policies; health promotion; national commission