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      Social conditions as fundamental causes of health inequalities: theory, evidence, and policy implications.

      Journal of health and social behavior

      epidemiology, United States, Sociology, Medical, Socioeconomic Factors, Social Conditions, Risk Factors, trends, Mortality, Humans, Healthcare Disparities, Health Status Disparities, Health Policy

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          Abstract

          Link and Phelan (1995) developed the theory of fundamental causes to explain why the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and mortality has persisted despite radical changes in the diseases and risk factors that are presumed to explain it. They proposed that the enduring association results because SES embodies an array of resources, such as money, knowledge, prestige, power, and beneficial social connections that protect health no matter what mechanisms are relevant at any given time. In this article, we explicate the theory, review key findings, discuss refinements and limits to the theory, and discuss implications for health policies that might reduce health inequalities. We advocate policies that encourage medical and other health-promoting advances while at the same time breaking or weakening the link between these advances and socioeconomic resources. This can be accomplished either by reducing disparities in socioeconomic resources themselves or by developing interventions that, by their nature, are more equally distributed across SES groups.

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          Most cited references 21

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          Constructions of masculinity and their influence on men's well-being: a theory of gender and health

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            Screening for breast cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement.

              (2009)
            Update of the 2002 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation statement on screening for breast cancer in the general population. The USPSTF examined the evidence on the efficacy of 5 screening modalities in reducing mortality from breast cancer: film mammography, clinical breast examination, breast self-examination, digital mammography, and magnetic resonance imaging in order to update the 2002 recommendation. To accomplish this update, the USPSTF commissioned 2 studies: 1) a targeted systematic evidence review of 6 selected questions relating to benefits and harms of screening, and 2) a decision analysis that used population modeling techniques to compare the expected health outcomes and resource requirements of starting and ending mammography screening at different ages and using annual versus biennial screening intervals. The USPSTF recommends against routine screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years. The decision to start regular, biennial screening mammography before the age of 50 years should be an individual one and take into account patient context, including the patient's values regarding specific benefits and harms. (Grade C recommendation) The USPSTF recommends biennial screening mammography for women between the ages of 50 and 74 years. (Grade B recommendation) The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the additional benefits and harms of screening mammography in women 75 years or older. (I statement) The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the additional benefits and harms of clinical breast examination beyond screening mammography in women 40 years or older. (I statement) The USPSTF recommends against clinicians teaching women how to perform breast self-examination. (Grade D recommendation) The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess additional benefits and harms of either digital mammography or magnetic resonance imaging instead of film mammography as screening modalities for breast cancer. (I statement).
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              The Epidemiology of Social Stress

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                10.1177/0022146510383498
                20943581

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