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Leefmilieu-Gezondheid België

Determining factors for health

What are the reasons behind us being healthy or otherwise? Identifying these factors is of great importance, since by altering the determining factors for health, we can by prevent diseases and improve the level of wellbeing in populations.


The determining factors for health are varied and there are several means of classifying them. In NEHAP (the Belgian National Environment and Health Action Plan), Belgium has defined six categories: genetics, way of life, social, economic and cultural factors, the physical condition of the parties involved, diet, environmental circumstances.

These categories are often grouped in three broad sections:

  • way of life and/or personal behaviour,
  • socio-economic conditions, and
  • the physical environment.

This is the structure chosen by the WHO Europe, in its "European Health Report 2009".


As we have seen, these determining factors include the socio-economic dimension. In its Health Programme 2003-2008, The European Commission highlights "the increasing differences in terms of health between various groups in society: the most privileged persons in most cases are in better health". The WHO Europe fully agrees with this: "the profound inequalities in the field of health", this international organisation points out, "largely arise from working and living conditions". This statement is also adopted by the Belgian NEHAP, which mentions the "numerous inequalities" which "constitute health risks for certain social groups.