re: social inequality and health

Life expectancy has worsened for women in the counties marked in red.

My latest project is a blog and curriculum for medical reporters on the social determinants of health: how things like social status, education, and income shape health through complex pathways. I’m being sponsored by the Association of Health Care Journalists, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (which does not direct any content). The web portal is  just out of the starting blocks and I need ideas from fellow writers to keep it lively, relevant, and thorough. Any suggestions are welcome (new studies, examples of great journalism, upcoming conferences, etc.) Here’s a sample:

Social inequality: A blind spot for health reporters

Dozens of news stories over the past year have reported on the disturbing data showing that Americans are dying younger than people in other wealthy countries and falling behind in many other measures of population health.

But much of the reporting I’ve seen shies away from covering a crucial part of the story: How social inequality may be the most important reason why the health status of Americans is failing to keep up with progress elsewhere.

Since 1980, virtually all gains in life expectancy in the U.S. have occurred among highly educated groups. In a revealing analysis published in 2008, researchers looked at long-term changes in infant mortality and adult deaths before age 65 and found a widening gap between haves and have-nots over the past 30 years. If all people in the U.S. population experienced the same health gains as the most advantaged, they found that 14 percent of the premature deaths among whites and 30 percent of premature deaths among people of color would have been prevented.

But news outlets seem almost afraid to dig into questions about social inequality…[keep reading]

Map credit: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

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