On April 12-14, 2007, representatives from civil society, international organizations, and governments gathered in Brasilia, Brazil for the Regional Meeting of Consultation with Civil Society on the Social Determinants of Health.  Participants in attendance for this conference included the Minister of Health and the Minister of Social Development of Brazil, the Vice-Minister of Health of Chile, officials of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the World Health Organization (WHO), the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, and representatives of civil society organizations who focus their efforts on sectors including women, peasants, indigenous peoples, afro-descendants, gypsies, sexual diversity, workers, social movements, academics, shantytown inhabitants, and sick persons’ associations, among others.

The objective of the Meeting was to provide an opportunity for discussion and debate regarding the social determinants of health, and for the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health to note the contributions and recommendations of civil society regarding this issue.  Previous to the Meeting of Consultation, the OAS Summits Secretariat collaborated with PAHO to carry out a virtual consultation which included the dissemination and collection of questionnaires to civil society on the social determinants of health.  During the Regional Meeting, the Summits Secretariat presented the outcomes of the virtual consultation in a presentation and accompanying document.

The meeting agenda consisted of six sessions in which participants made presentations and engaged in discussion on thematic areas such as government policies and programs for promoting quality of life and health, globalization and the universal right to health, social exclusion, income and work conditions, environment, urbanization and intersectoral policies, education, culture, ethnicity, gender and discrimination, and civil society action on the social determinants of health.  On the second day, participants formulated conclusions on the themes in question in moderated working groups. 

The Charter of Brasilia emanated from the discussions held over the three days of the Regional Meeting. This document outlines the civil society perspectives, recommendations, and commitments regarding the social determinants of health.  Among its contents, the Charter of Brasilia calls for a civil society alliance based on ancestral principles and knowledge of indigenous people and traditional communities and for commitments to the process from the region’s governments and international organizations.  Participants appealed to governments and international organizations, including WHO, PAHO, and the OAS, to work with civil society organizations to strengthen policies and programs related to social determinants of health.  Finally, the Charter of Brasilia pledges to publicize the discussion among popular organizations and social movements in order to include their viewpoints and contributions and to enlist their active participation in the social determinants of health debate.

Further outcomes of the Meeting were reflected in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministries of Health of Brazil and Chile, both countries that lent their support to the Regional Meeting of Consultation with Civil Society. The Memorandum elaborated a series of commitments to promote and develop cooperation in the area of human health, with a mention of policies related to the social determinants of health, among others.  Additionally, PAHO and WHO officials indicated their desire to continue the process of civil society consultation at the regional and hemispheric levels on this important issue.

More information on the Regional Meeting of Consultation with Civil Society on Social Determinants of Health is available on the OAS Civil Society website.