National Academy of Medicine

Addressing Social Determinants of Health and Health Disparities: A Vital Direction for Health and Health Care

By Nancy E. Adler, David M. Cutler, Jonathan E. Fielding, Sandro Galea, M. Maria Glymour, Howard K. Koh, and David Satcher
September 19, 2016 | Discussion Paper
About the Vital Directions for Health and Health Care Series

Vital DirectionsThis publication is part of the National Academy of Medicine’s Vital Directions for Health and Health Care Initiative, which commissioned expert papers on 19 priority focus areas for U.S. health policy by more than 100 leading researchers, scientists, and policy makers from across the United States. The views presented in this publication and others in the series are those of the authors and do not represent formal consensus positions of the NAM, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, or the authors’ organizations.
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Despite the powerful effects of social and behavioral factors on health, development, and longevity, U.S. health policy has largely ignored them. The United States spends far more money per capita on medical services than do other nations, while spending less on social services. Residents of nations that have higher ratios of spending on social services to spending on health-care services have better health and live longer. The relative underinvestment in social services helps to explain why U.S. health indicators lag behind those of many countries. The best available evidence suggests that a health policy framework addressing social and behavioral determinants of health would achieve better population health, less inequality, and lower costs than our current policies. Read more >>

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.