Social Determinants of Health


Theorising ethnic privilege in Aotearoa

 The social determinants of health refer to the many aspects of one’s physical and social environment that affect health status including: income inequality,  exposures to toxicity, stress and social exclusion due to racism and xenophobia.

This research goes beyond an analysis of racism to describe the way societal privilege works as a determinant of health for dominant groups by ensuring inequitable access to power, opportunity and social status.
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Key informant understanding of privilege revolved around the notion that privilege is multi-layered, invisible (to those who benefit) and closely related to class and culture.
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This research marks an important departure from much health research that tends to focus attention on the disadvantaged groups in our society often employing “victim blaming” language.

"If we accept that there are forces in our society (other than socio-economic) that are significant in creating and maintaining disadvantage within certain populations, it is also likely that equivalent forces – environmental, cultural, societal, institutional, interpersonal – protect and perpetuate advantage in other populations groups."


Maori Health Identities

People’s understandings of their health, including deficit representations, impact through a range of mechanisms, with profound implications for health. The aims of this study are to investigate Maori health identities, examine their impacts and develop actions for better engagement and alignment of services with Maori needs and expectations. Two rounds of interviews were conducted utilising qualitative and quantitative (Q methodology) components. The study found four key groupings; a small group largely accepted the stereotypes, another group expressed varying levels of ambivalence, many resisted and challenged deficit representations of Maori health and the fourth group did so with critical insights. 

The project provided material for a case taken to the Human Rights Tribunal arguing that cartoons published in the Marlborough Express and The Press were in breach of the Human Rights Act, section 61.
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Commercial Determinants of Health



Commercial determinants of health are an increasingly important research topic globally. These determinants are a result of decisions and actions by producers, marketers, retailers and investors.

The transnational alcohol companies directly and indirectly have argued strongly for ineffective policy and to subvert the development and implementation of evidence based effective policy. Industry funded organisations have engaged in effective stakeholder marketing to try to avoid similar controls to those placed on the tobacco industry, another marketer of an addictive and hazardous substance.
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The legal high industry was active during the development of the psychoactive substances regime in New Zealand .
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More information on our Determinants of Health research here