2006 National Conference Explores How Social and Economic Factors and Policies Impact Health of Americans

Conference on the impacts of nonhealth policy on population health

On February 9–10, 2006, staff from the Institute for Social Research and the National Poverty Center of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at University of Michigan held a conference in Bethesda, Md. It was entitled "Health Effects of Non-Health Policy," on the impacts of nonhealth policy on the health of individuals and the American population.

There is growing evidence that health care accounts for only a small fraction of the variation in individual and population health. Reflecting this pattern, the United States, which spends far more on health care and biomedical research than any other nation, lags behind most other wealthy nations in life expectancy and infant mortality.

This disparate pattern suggests that "nonhealth" (i.e., social and economic) factors and related policies that affect families and individuals deserve heightened attention, alongside biomedical factors, in determining individual and population health.

Key Results

  • The conference drew more than 100 people from academic institutions across the nation as well as public officials from numerous federal departments.

  • The conference featured 12 papers by scholars who were commissioned by the National Poverty Center to each explore the health impacts of one of six areas of social and economic policy:

    • Housing and neighborhood/community policies
    • Civil rights and anti-discrimination policies
    • Education policies
    • Income support programs over the life course
    • Welfare programs and reforms
    • Employment and macroeconomic policies
  • The conference included formal discussions of the pair of papers in each area by two experts and of the overall set of 12 by several general discussants, with time in each session for open questions and discussion involving conference attendees.

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