Just Societies: Health Equity and Dignified Lives. Executive Summary of the Report of the Commission of the Pan American Health Organization on Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas

This report features specific recommendations on the health of Indigenous peoples in the Americas as well as a re-visioning of the determinants of health. It links health inequities affecting Indigenous peoples across generations to colonialism and recommends the promotion of self-determination and improved support for relationships with the land.

Publication Abstract: The region includes people who enjoy substantial privileges, and others who face severe human rights violations by reason of their socioeconomic position, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability status or being migrants. Each of these factors, alone or in combination, can contribute to marked inequalities in health within and between countries in the Americas. Insofar as systematic inequalities in health are avoidable by reasonable means, they are unfair— and hence inequitable. Putting them right is a matter of social justice [...] The evidence we bring together here demonstrates that much of ill health is socially determined. The reason that life expectancy for a woman in Haiti is a little less than 66 years while for a woman in Canada it is 84 (2) is not because Haitian women are biologically different to Canadian women, but because of the conditions in which each is born, grows, lives, works and ages. Similarly, in Chile, the fact that a man with a low educational level can expect to live 11 years fewer than a man with university education is mostly the result of the social determinants of health (2). As we shall show, initiatives on education and social inclusion, for example, will have health and other societal benefits.


Pan American Health Organization

Year Published

January, 2018



Place of Publication

Washington, D.C.