In the report from the Equity at the Centre Congress in Alice Springs (4-5 September 2014), HPF Senior Health Promotion Strategist Karen Hicks Martin Laverty’s presentation. According to Martin Lavety, CEO of Catholic Health Australia; equity is an economic asset for a country and should be valued as such.  His advice to those advocating equity with governments that focus on indivicual respoinsibility was to argue the case that investiment in social capital (e.g. housing, safe pregnancy, economic development) is necessary in order to make individual responsibility possible. “If we want people to be productive and to have economic growth,” said Lavety, “we need a healthy population.”  He pointed out that people are unable to take individual responsibility for their health if it is already compromised.

Abstract for Martin Laverty’s presentation

The 2008 World Health Organisation’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health Closing the Gap report provided a road map for governments to improve population wide health outcomes. The WHO’s work received little attention in Australia when Closing the Gap was released, and its recommendations were ignored by the then Federal Government. In 2011, 40 social determinant advocates contributed to the book Determining the Future: A fair go and health for all. The book outlined actions Australia could take to implement the WHO’s recommendations and argued a Senate Inquiry should inform Australia’s next steps. Associated with the book’s publication was the emergence of the Social Determinants of Health Alliance (SDOHA), which is today leading national advocacy for action on social determinants. In mid-2012, a tri-partisan Senate Inquiry with backing of the Liberal Party, Labor Party, and Greens recommended the Australian Government adopt the 2008 WHO Closing the Gap report and commit to addressing the social determinants of health relevant to the Australian context. The Senate said government should adopt administrative practices that ensure consideration of the social determinants of health in all relevant policy development activities, particularly education, employment, housing, family, and social security policy. The Senate further said the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) should give greater emphasis in grant making to social determinants research. It concluded its recommendations by saying annual progress reports to Federal Parliament should be a key requirement of addressing the social determinants of health. With tri-partisan support for these Senate recommendations on social determinants, this presentation will state the social and economic case for adoption of the WHO social determinants framework, outline success to date in working to instil social determinants within government decision making, and also propose the next stages of an advocacy campaign to see the Senate recommendations implemented nationally.


Martin Laverty is the CEO of Catholic Health Australia, a network comprising ten percent of the nation’s not-for-profit hospital and aged care beds. He is also the inaugural Chair of the Social Determinants of Health Alliance and co-editor of the 2011 book Determining the Future: A Fair Go & Health for All, a book that contributed to a Senate Inquiry being established on social determinants of health. He is a member of the National Disability Insurance Scheme board, a member of the NSW Public Service Commission board, and a member of the Federal Government’s Aged Care Sector Committee. He is the Board Chair of the NSW Heart Foundation, and a member of the National Heart Foundation Board. He is also a member of the National Health Performance Authority Advisory Committee for Private Hospitals, and a member of the Australian Catholic University Faculty of Health Sciences advisory board. Martin is a lawyer by training, and is near to completing a PhD in governance of not-for-profit health services.         25 September 2014 Jo Lawrence-King