US Opinions on Health Determinants and Social Policy as Health Policy

Many factors affect a person’s health in addition to access to health care services—health behaviors (diet, exercise, smoking), psychosocial stressors and resources, and socioeconomic status, as well as the environment in which people live, work and play.

Researchers conducted a national telephone survey to measure public opinion on whether some 19 factors have a strong effect on health. The top-ranked factors:

  1. Smoking
  2. Personal health practices
  3. Access to affordable health care
  4. Stress
  5. Knowledge about health
  6. Physical environment
  7. Neighborhood options for healthy food and exercise
  8. Having health insurance
  9. Having a job
  10. Amount of social support
  11. Genetic makeup inherited
  12. Income

Individuals with lower socioeconomic status were more likely than were those with higher socioeconomic status to list a range of health care, genetic and social factors as having a very strong effect on health.

Those who viewed social policy as health policy were more likely to be older, female, non-White and liberal, and to have less education, lower income and fair or poor health.

Among the top-ranked approaches to improving health: reducing smoking, providing health insurance to more people, encouraging people to improve personal health practices, reducing pollution and reducing poverty.