This study examines and elucidates the real determinants of health in lower-income countries. It challenges the widely-held view that income inequalities, globalisation and economic growth are the causes of ill health, disease and poverty. In fact, policies that seek to improve health by reducing inequality through the redistribution of wealth will be counterproductive, because they will undermine wealth creation and prosperity – the most significant determinants of health.

The study also addresses the widely-promoted view that massive increases in government healthcare will both improve health and kick-start economic growth. There is little evidence such an approach would work. Economic growth – underpinned by market institutions such as property rights and the rule of law – is the fastest way to improve human health. These institutions enable countries and individuals to take advantage of the potential offered by globalisation to increase both incomes and health.

In contrast, where these institutions are weak or nonexistent, and where governments attempt to distort markets through heavy handed regulation, the impacts on health will be severe. The reality is that government mismanagement is the direct cause of many of the so-called ‘social determinants of health.’

International agencies such as the World Health Organization, however, erroneously promote the view that regulatory intervention by government, in areas as disparate as employment and social relationships, can prevent poor health. The evidence shows the opposite to be the case.

Instead of attempting to control and direct the process of wealth creation in the name of protecting health, governments should enact policies which empower individuals, allowing them to benefit from economic growth and improve their well-being.