Improving Health: Social Determinants and Personal Choice Institute of Health Equity

Article by Michael Marmot and Ruth Bell, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2011 (volume 40, issue 1.)

Although medical care is important, our reviews of research and the hearings we've held have led us to conclude that building a healthier America will hinge largely on what we do beyond the health care system. It means changing policies that influence economic opportunity, early childhood development, schools, housing, the workplace, community design and nutrition, so that all Americans can live, work, play and learn in environments that protect and actively promote health.

Statement from commissioners from Commission to Build a Healthier America.

This clear, crisp statement is fundamental. It has the possibility to change the way policymakers and the public think about health. Health care grabs the headlines. The noisy discussion of reform of the U.S. healthcare system—characterized less by informed debate than by misinformation (“don't let the government meddle with my Medicare” was particularly appealing)—should be put in this broader context. Providing health care for people when they are sick is important. But the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) commissioners' statement above makes clear that it is environments in which people live, learn, work, and play that need to be changed if Americans are to enjoy good health.

To read the full article, click here.

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