Why Addressing Social Factors Could Improve U.S. Health Care

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Health in the U.S. is a tale of two starkly different realities. The better-off and well-connected are not only in a stronger position to receive care when they need it, but they also start off with advantages that have a tremendous effect on health — in housing, employment, stress levels, food security, social capital and more.

A 2008 report on social determinants of health from the World Health Organization said it plainly. It might not be surprising that the poor have higher levels of illness and mortality. However, the report said, “in countries at all levels of income, health and illness follow a social gradient: the lower the socioeconomic position, the worse the health.”