What Shapes Health?

Moderator David Williams, Ph.D., professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard University, led the panel of additional experts on the social determinants of health, including Paula Braveman, M.D., M.P.H., and Susan Egerter, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco and Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

The panel provided insights on how, despite an abundance of information about healthy lifestyles and the most advanced medical care in the world, millions of Americans experience needlessly poor health and don’t practice healthy behaviors. For many, the path to a healthy or unhealthy life is influenced by factors largely beyond their control, like the neighborhoods they grew up in, their parents’ income and level of education, and the stress they’ve experienced in their daily lives. The costs of poor health are borne not only by individuals but by their families and, ultimately, by all Americans.

The program addressed questions such as:

  • How do early life experiences affect health throughout life?
  • How important is health education in shaping healthy behaviors?
  • How does stress in early childhood affect the brain and other organs, with lifelong consequences for health?
  • What can policy-makers and advocates do to reduce health care costs and improve lifelong health for all Americans?

Webinar Series: This webinar was the first in a three-part series exploring how conditions where we live, learn, work and play affect our health. Mark your calendars for the next webinar in the series:

  • April 26: Looking Upstream: How Income, Education and Race Shape Health
  • May (date TBD): 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.

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