Addressing social determinants of health and health inequalities


This Viewpoint on addressing social determinants of health and health inequalities provides a summary of a discussion paper developed as part of the National Academy of Medicine’s initiative on Vital Directions for Health & Health Care. The emphasis in the US health system on medical treatments for acute problems has yielded benefits for some, but has not achieved higher overall levels of population health or increased longevity as seen in other nations. Overcoming US health disadvantage may require rebalancing priorities to prevent or ameliorate health-damaging social conditions and behavioral choices. It is not an issue of how much money is spent on health, but rather whether those dollars are spent to provide the greatest benefit. This Viewpoint includes only a sampling of the wide range of policy options addressing social and behavioral determinants of health. More extensive discussion is provided in the full report. Although such policies are not yet typically viewed as health policies, they have great potential to reduce health inequalities and improve the health and longevity of all people in the United States.

Adler NE, Glymour MM, Fielding J. Addressing social determinants of health and health inequalities. JAMA. 2016;316(16):1641-1642. PMID: 27669456. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2016.14058.

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