Examining the Socio-economic Determinants of Health

May 21, 2008

by Rochelle Davis, HSC Founding Executive Director

Last week someone gave me a copy of Reaching for a Healthier Life, a report that examines the socio-economic determinants of health.  The report points out that we generally think about health as something fixed by our genetic heritage while in fact health is greatly shaped by a person’s socio-economic status.

Several points of particular interest stood out to me.  First, the authors point out that those disparities between socio-economic groups and the impact that these differences have on health vary from country to country.  In the U.S., the gulf between the rich and poor is large and the impact on health is great.   After listing a number of statistics, the authors reach the conclusion that “the power of social status to impact the most precious resource we have–life itself–is enormous and pervasive.”   

The report goes on to identify policies that we can adopt that buffer the adverse conditions of being lower on the socio-economic ladder. Improving the nutrition of school lunch programs, a key goal for the Healthy Schools Campaign, was identified as an important policy to address the health disparity problem in this country.

Many of us who advocate for healthier school food are often marginalized  for trying to make healthy school food a priority for our country.  This report makes an important statement on how important this work is.  Click here [pdf] to view the full report.