What would it take to reduce inequities in life expectancy?
What if everyone had the same prospects for living a long and healthy life, no matter who they are or where they call home? In this future, all people live in safe and healthy environments; enjoy reliable access to health care, nutritious food, and stable housing; and have the knowledge and opportunities to make healthy choices about diet and exercise. And none of us has to contend with the harms of persistent racial discrimination, violence, trauma, and injustice.
The challenge is urgent. Health inequities by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status exist at every stage of life, accumulate over time, and affect both the length and quality of people’s lives. Looking ahead, stagnating wages and hardship among those at the bottom of the economic ladder threaten to worsen the mortality rate and prevalence of chronic diseases. And if disparities in health and longevity between racial and ethnic groups persist as our nation becomes more diverse, growing burdens of chronic disease and premature death could further increase government spending on health care in the decades ahead.
Changemakers are rising to this challenge within the health care sector, at every level of government, in private enterprises and community-based nonprofits, in advocacy organizations and philanthropy. But they lack reliable information with which to design and implement solutions. In this brief, we identify five strategies for the health care sector to help people address their health-related social needs and in turn narrow inequities in health and healthy life expectancy.
Kenney GM, Waidmann T, Skopec L, Allen EH. What Would it Take to Reduce Inequities in Healthy Life Expectancy? Next50 Catalyst
brief. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; September 2019. Available online.