Looking Upstream

How Income, Education and Racial Disparities Shape Health

The path to a healthy or unhealthy life depends on many factors outside the health care system. To fully understand why some Americans are healthy and others are not, we need to look “upstream” –at the places where we live, the education we receive, the stress we experience at home and at work, and whether we have safe places to be active and healthy foods in our neighborhoods and communities–in other words, the factors that shape our experiences where we live, learn, work and play.

In the second of three webinars to examine the non-medical factors that shape health, panelists presented key findings from three issue briefs released on April 26, 2011. The webinar also highlighted the County Health Calculator, a new interactive app that explores the impact that education and income have on health at the national, state and county level.

The webinar addressed such questions as: How do income and wealth influence health beyond the ability to afford health care? How do experiences based on a person’s race or ethnic group affect their health? Can a few additional years of education meaningfully improve well-being?

James Marks, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and director of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, kicked off the discussion with an expert panel that included:

  • Paula Braveman, M.D., M.P.H., University of California, San Francisco
  • David Williams, Ph.D., M.P.H Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University
  • Steven Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., Virginia Commonwealth University

Webinar Series: This webinar was the second in a three-part series exploring how conditions where we live, learn, work and play affect our health. Mark your calendar for the third and final segment of the series:

  • Wednesday, May 11, 2011: Place and Health: How Living and Working Conditions Shape Health

This series builds on the work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America. Learn more about the Commission’s 10 recommendations by downloading the Commission’s report, Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America.