Where Health Disparities Begin: The Role Of Social And Economic Determinants-and why current policies may make matters worse
A recent article published in Health Affairs discussed the impact social determinants of health and the policies affecting them have on health disparities, and how it is unlikely to have a significant reduction in disparities without addressing the source of the disparities.
Prior research has consistently shown that health disparities are not simply the result of differential access to care or differences in the quality of medical care a patient receives. They are also the result of many social factors that affect the environment in which people live, work and play. According to the authors, these social and economic conditions compound an individual’s health significantly, even creating a generational cycle. Income and education are the two factors that most influence an individual’s health. The authors note that the general public is largely unaware of the role social determinants have on health, but some policymakers are. They argue that all policymakers should consider the health implications of their decisions, regardless of what the policy’s main focus may be, a recommendation advocated for by numerous groups, including the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. The authors suggest that advocates for programs focused on education or jobs might receive more support if they point out the health benefits of their programs.
The authors said now is a critical moment for the health equity movement because fiscal and political pressures could lead to cuts in programs that affect the social determinants which will have health consequences, and because “health disparities will persist until attention turns to the root causes outside the clinic.”
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation October newsletter
~ by Brendan Kober on November 6, 2011.