Reducing Inequalities in Health: A European Perspective

Reducing Inequalities in Health: A European Perspective

Reducing Inequalities in Health: A European Perspective

Reducing Inequalities in Health: A European Perspective

Synopsis

With contributions from leading researchers in 14 different European countries, this volume provides a comprehensive source of reference for the reader interested in what really works in the field of health promotion.

Excerpt

Human production is the basis for both welfare and health. There is a clear correlation between gross national product (GNP), income level, living standards and average life expectancy when nations are compared, but also notable differences between different socioeconomic strata and occupational groups within nations. Most of the health improvements over time in most countries can be attributed to reduced poverty, improved education and improved living standards. Human productivity in different forms has been the basis for these improvements. One aspect of this is that the long-term unemployed or underemployed in all studies demonstrate poorer health status than the gainfully employed.

Differences in working conditions and work-related health status have been reported for centuries. the impetus for improvement has been the often appalling working conditions, especially for manual workers, who are often poorly educated and have low incomes. With the organization of trade unions, better knowledge, strengthened legislation and improved equipment many basic working conditions in industrialized countries have improved. This has generally improved health, although not necessarily diminishing demonstrable health inequalities, as the occupational groups with a better education have also benefited from welfare improvements and increased economic resources.

The main focuses for improvements in work-related health are awareness of health aspects in the planning of work and production, the eradication or control of known hazards and improvements in the work environment. But even when these 'classic' occupational hazards have been corrected, inequalities in health remain between higher and lower positions in the workforce, indicating the potential for further improvement. Interventions might thus lead to reduced disparity, as well as serving to clarify the complicated mechanisms behind such inequalities.

Occupation is the most important criterion of social stratification in advanced societies and is the basis of socioeconomic group categorizations. Esteem and social approval depend largely on one's type of job, professional training and level of occupational achievement. Furthermore, type and quality

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