Healthier Societies: From Analysis to Action

Healthier Societies: From Analysis to Action

Healthier Societies: From Analysis to Action

Healthier Societies: From Analysis to Action

Synopsis

Extensive research has shown that social factors are as important as biological ones in determining health, and their impact is enormous in both adults and children. The challenge of changing public policies and programs remains. Healthier Societies: From Analysis to Actionaddresses the fundamental questions which will lead the way toward countries investing seriously in improving social conditions, as a way of improving population health.

The book is divided into three parts. Section one addresses to what extent health is determined by biological factors, by social factors, and more fundamentally, by the interaction between the two. Section two examines four case studies that demonstrate the ways in which social change can dramatically affect adults' health, as well as launch children's lives onto healthy trajectories. This section analyzes the cases of nutrition, working conditions, social inequalities, and geographic disparities. The third section of the book takes a serious look at what would be involved in translating the research findings described throughout the book into action.

Excerpt

By the late 1980s, evidence showed that health status among populations throughout the twentieth century had persistently differed according to social and economic status, despite a dramatic change in the major causes of disease and death. Such a finding clearly indicated an important need to further our understanding of the broad and fundamental determinants of health. In 1987, the Population Health Program was launched to take up this challenge by bringing together a multidisciplinary group of researchers with a diversity of perspectives.

The Population Health Program members brought expertise from a broad range of disciplines, including medicine, epidemiology, geography, anthropology, sociology, economics, and policy analysis. This combination resulted not only in a diversity of perspectives brought to the study of determinants of health, but it also caused researchers to look beyond the barriers of their own disciplines and to think in new ways.

Over the course of fifteen years, the program systematically explored socioeconomic status (SES) gradients and their relationship to health outcomes. It is now well established that, on average, people with higher levels of income, education, and social position live longer and are healthier than those with lower incomes and lesser social positions. Moreover, societies with greater variations in income, education, or social position tend to have higher levels of mortality. In the program’s final five years, program members furthered studies in this area by examining the SES gradient at the level of the individual life course, as well as at the levels of the neighborhood, community, and society.

In its effort to develop a comprehensive determinants-of-health framework, the program worked to better understand the biological pathways that lead to variations in population health. Program members sought to learn how systematic differences in living circumstances over time can embed themselves in human biology to create susceptibilities to a wide range of diseases.

The program received international recognition for its major contributions in research, particularly its work on synthesizing knowledge from a wide range of disciplines and developing a model of the determinants of health. The program had a substantial impact on health policy at the local, provincial, and national levels.

This book pulls together the work and viewpoints of a wide range of program members and other colleagues who joined us in this unique research program to . . .

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