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Community capability and the social determinants of health


To develop knowledge, tools and resources that will increase the capacity of communities and other end-users (policy makers and services) to implement cultural, empowerment and identity based programs, approaches and methodologies to improve the social determinants of health.


It is now widely accepted that improvements in the social determinants of health are required to produce significant gains in life expectancy and quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Yet research, understandings, policy and actions required to improve the social determinants of health remain complex and broad. While education, meaningful employment, good nutrition, housing, water and other infrastructure needs are important social determinants of health, so too is freedom from discrimination, being empowered to have control over one’s life, practise one’s culture and being part of supportive communities and networks.

Community action and engagement in the design and implementation of programs, approaches and research activities is central. A strength-based approach to improving the social determinants of health aims to increase the capacity of communities (supported by culturally competent services and policy frameworks) to address issues that are important to them, by:

  • Recognising knowledge and strengths
  • Building skills in community governance, program design and implementation with an emphasis on place based (local and regional) approaches that support and build existing cultural capacity and nation building
  • Understanding and addressing higher level system and power imbalances
  • Engaging in partnerships and collaboration.

Initial priorities

While all social determinants of health are important and most effective when actioned as interrelated, lessons from the predecessor CRCAH social determinants of health program, stakeholder consultations including the Futures consultation, Stewardship Dialogues and, more recently, the cultural determinants and early years roundtable have led the Institute to prioritise the following as starting points in developing this program of work:

  • place based and cultural approaches to early childhood development 
  • individual and family empowerment 
  • social and emotional wellbeing, and 
  • policy.
Created: 17 March 2015 - Updated: 19 September 2018