Population Health: Challenges for Science and Society

The emphasis on risk factor intervention at the individual level has predominated in efforts to reduce mortality and promote health. Interest in social and other nonmedical interventions, particularly socioeconomic status (SES) influences, has increased in recent years. This article focuses on the interaction of social structure and socioeconomic status with other influences in complex pathways to affect health, and their contribution to health disparities. It examines both social class as an explanation of health differences and competing hypotheses concerning prenatal and early nutrition and cognitive capacity. Although education is associated with income, wealth, occupation, and other SES indicators and may not be the most important SES determinant, it influences a variety of pathways to health outcomes and offers strategic leverage for intervention because of social and political consensus on its value beyond health.

Author(s): David Mechanic

Keywords: population health; social class; socioeconomic status; infant mortality; nutrition; cognitive capacity; education

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Volume 85, Issue 3 (pages 533–559)
DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2007.00498.x
Published in 2007