The existence of social inequalities in health is well established. The welfare state (social policy, healthcare, public health policy) can play an important role in mediating the effects of the social determinants of health; however, comparative studies have shown that health inequalities are actually among the largest in generous and inclusive welfare states. This project focuses on the following question:
Why do social inequalities in health persist in European welfare states and what can be done to reduce them?
Expected outcomes and the impact of this project include the refinement, testing and development of social inequalities in health theory, the identification of policies and interventions with the potential of reducing health inequalities, and a new policy agenda on how health inequalities can be reduced most effectively. The project consists of six interrelated work packages delivered across three project phases. In the first phase, we have provided theoretical elaboration on the pathways whereby welfare states and healthcare systems influence the etiology and reduction of social inequalities in health. In the second phase, we have explored and tested these pathways using morbidity and mortality indicators. We have also used evidence review methods to examine the effects of macro policy interventions in reducing health inequalities. In the third phase, we will combine the work packages to produce country specific policy tool-kits. The project will thus impact on both the academic and policy spheres. We use a variety of cutting edge data sources at the micro and macro level and employ state-of-the-art statistical techniques, such as counterfactual policy analyses and multilevel models.