To Improve Health, Don't Follow the Money

This editorial discusses efforts to eliminate health disparities in the United States. Social determinants such as education, location and income have a profound effect on health outcomes. The author introduces a new organization charged with developing a national strategy to eliminate health disparities.

Healthy People 2020 established the goal of eliminating health disparities in the United States. In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act created the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council. The Council is required to develop a national health strategy and recommend changes to federal policy to achieve the highest possible health outcomes.

Key Findings:

  • While the United States spends almost twice per capita on health care than the next highest-spending nation, the health of Americans is far worse on average than other developed countries. The life expectancy of people in the Unites States is closer to some developing countries than to many other developed countries.
  • Low-income communities in the United States have the highest levels of poor health. Income and education levels are inversely related to the burden of most major diseases.
  • Changing the health of Americans cannot be accomplished by using the health care system as the primary vehicle for health improvement. Health disparities should be addressed through efforts to change social determinants of health, including food access, transportation, education, safety, and income.

Efforts to eliminate health disparities will require new analytic tools to better understand the social determinants of health and the impact of potential policy changes. The National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council brings together multiple governmental organizations to help create better communities and better health.