March 2007

Grant Results


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 such as:
    • The Social Security Administration
    • The Federal Reserve Board of Governors
    • National Institutes of Health
    • The assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services
    • The National Center for Health Statistics
  • 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. A sampling of the papers includes:
    • "Residential Environments and Obesity: What Can We Learn about Policy Interventions from Observational Studies?"
    • "The Long-Run and Intergenerational Impact of Poor Infant Health: Evidence from Cohorts Born During the Civil Rights Era"
    • "The Effects of Macroeconomic Conditions on Health"
    • "Education and Health: Evaluating Theories and Evidence"

The conference agenda and 12 papers are available online.

From 2005 to 2006, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project with an unsolicited grant of $50,000.

Other funders included the Annie E. Casey Foundation ($50,000), the National Poverty Center ($50,200) and the Russell Sage Foundation ($34,509).

After the Grant
Project staff will be publishing the 12 papers produced for the conference, plus an introduction and conclusion, with the publishing arm of the Russell Sage Foundation.

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Conference on the Impacts of Nonhealth Policy on Population Health


University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (Ann Arbor,  MI)

  • Amount: $ 50,000
    Dates: January 2005 to June 2006
    ID#:  052522


Robert F. Schoeni, Ph.D.
(734) 763-5131

Web Site

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Report prepared by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: David C. Colby

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