Health Inequalities – how do different disciplines deal with it?

The symposium “Health Inequalities – an interdisciplinary discussion on socioeconomic status, health and causality” took place on 24 May in Amsterdam. This event was featured by a joint project initiated by ALLEA in cooperation with the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM), and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

From left to right: Wim van Saarlos (President KNAW), Graham Caie (ALLEA Board Member), George Griffin (President FEAM), Bernard Charpentier (former President FEAM), Johan Mackenbach (Professor at Erasmus Medical Centre). Picture credits: Inge Hoogland

The symposium gathered representatives from across disciplines that are interested and committed to exploring unresolved issues in the context of substantial differences in health among different socioeconomic groups. The discussion was led by experts with backgrounds in various disciplines that ranged from public health, sociology, economics, and genetics. Speakers elaborated on current findings as to what extent factors like income and education determine socioeconomic disparities, and examined various methodological options to analyse the causal relationship between socioeconomic status and health, and the main mechanisms that link low socioeconomic status to ill-health and premature death. Speakers also cast a light on the challenges they face when assessing the causal effects and the associated methodologies in place within their disciplines.

Jay Kaufman, Professor at McGill University, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, & Occupational Health. Picture credits: Inge Hoogland

Moderated by the Chair of the project’s Scientific Committee, Professor Johan Mackenbach (KNAW), each of the sessions addressed the framework of mechanisms that generate social inequalities in health, while taking into account that other variables, such as geographical position, are also likely to affect these to a lesser or greater extent.

Followed by a panel discussion, speakers came to interact with the audience that was comprised of academics and scholars, junior researchers and university representatives as well as the public.