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Background

Social inequalities in health are a major challenge to public health in Europe and hence a priority topic for the EU. While the average level of health in EU countries has continued to improve over the last decades, differences in health between advantaged and disadvantaged sections of the population within each country remain substantial. A broad spectrum of policies influences the determinants of health inequalities. Such interventions are seldom evaluated for their impact on population health in general and even more rarely for their differential impact on different socioeconomic groups. There is an urgent need to extend and strengthen the evidence base on differential policy impact, to help identify the most effective ways to reduce health inequalities in different EU countries. Methodologically, this is a highly challenging task for which traditional experimental evaluation designs are neither adequate nor feasible.

New methods of policy analysis and evaluation of natural experiments will be combined with a unique longitudinal dataset of health determinants and health outcomes by socioeconomic group in more than 20 European countries covering several decades, in order to generate new knowledge on differential effects of policies targeting the strategic drivers of health inequalities.