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Income Support Policies and Health among the Elderly

July 2006

Pamela Herd, University of Wisconsin, Madison; James House, University of Michigan; and Robert F. Schoeni, University of Michigan.

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There is increasing evidence that health care accounts for only a modest fraction of the variation in individual and population health (McGinnis et al. 2002). This begins to explain why the U.S. lags behind most other wealthy nations in life expectancy and infant mortality, although the U.S. spends far more on health care and biomedical research than any other nation (United Nations Development Programme 2004). At the same time, there are strong and well documented associations between health and socioeconomic factors. This suggests that “nonhealth” factors - i.e., social and economic determinants - and related policies deserve heightened attention, alongside biomedical factors, in determining individual and population health. Although researchers and policymakers increasingly recognize the general importance of social and economic factors for health, the peer-review research literature includes very limited research on or discussion of the health effects of public policy in these “nonhealth” domains.

Health, Health Insurance, and Health Care, Social Welfare Programs and Policies