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      The Social Determinants of Health: It's Time to Consider the Causes of the Causes

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      Public Health Reports
      SAGE Publications

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          The social determinants of health: coming of age.

          In the United States, awareness is increasing that medical care alone cannot adequately improve health overall or reduce health disparities without also addressing where and how people live. A critical mass of relevant knowledge has accumulated, documenting associations, exploring pathways and biological mechanisms, and providing a previously unavailable scientific foundation for appreciating the role of social factors in health. We review current knowledge about health effects of social (including economic) factors, knowledge gaps, and research priorities, focusing on upstream social determinants-including economic resources, education, and racial discrimination-that fundamentally shape the downstream determinants, such as behaviors, targeted by most interventions. Research priorities include measuring social factors better, monitoring social factors and health relative to policies, examining health effects of social factors across lifetimes and generations, incrementally elucidating pathways through knowledge linkage, testing multidimensional interventions, and addressing political will as a key barrier to translating knowledge into action.
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            Central role of the brain in stress and adaptation: links to socioeconomic status, health, and disease.

            The brain is the key organ of stress reactivity, coping, and recovery processes. Within the brain, a distributed neural circuitry determines what is threatening and thus stressful to the individual. Instrumental brain systems of this circuitry include the hippocampus, amygdala, and areas of the prefrontal cortex. Together, these systems regulate physiological and behavioral stress processes, which can be adaptive in the short-term and maladaptive in the long-term. Importantly, such stress processes arise from bidirectional patterns of communication between the brain and the autonomic, cardiovascular, and immune systems via neural and endocrine mechanisms underpinning cognition, experience, and behavior. In one respect, these bidirectional stress mechanisms are protective in that they promote short-term adaptation (allostasis). In another respect, however, these stress mechanisms can lead to a long-term dysregulation of allostasis in that they promote maladaptive wear-and-tear on the body and brain under chronically stressful conditions (allostatic load), compromising stress resiliency and health. This review focuses specifically on the links between stress-related processes embedded within the social environment and embodied within the brain, which is viewed as the central mediator and target of allostasis and allostatic load.
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              Socioeconomic disparities in health in the United States: what the patterns tell us.

              We aimed to describe socioeconomic disparities in the United States across multiple health indicators and socioeconomic groups. Using recent national data on 5 child (infant mortality, health status, activity limitation, healthy eating, sedentary adolescents) and 6 adult (life expectancy, health status, activity limitation, heart disease, diabetes, obesity) health indicators, we examined indicator rates across multiple income or education categories, overall and within racial/ethnic groups. Those with the lowest income and who were least educated were consistently least healthy, but for most indicators, even groups with intermediate income and education levels were less healthy than the wealthiest and most educated. Gradient patterns were seen often among non-Hispanic Blacks and Whites but less consistently among Hispanics. Health in the United States is often, though not invariably, patterned strongly along both socioeconomic and racial/ethnic lines, suggesting links between hierarchies of social advantage and health. Worse health among the most socially disadvantaged argues for policies prioritizing those groups, but pervasive gradient patterns also indicate a need to address a wider socioeconomic spectrum-which may help garner political support. Routine health reporting should examine socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparity patterns, jointly and separately.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Public Health Reports
                Public Health Reports
                SAGE Publications
                0033-3549
                1468-2877
                January 2014
                January 2014
                : 129
                : 1_suppl2
                : 19-31
                Article
                10.1177/00333549141291S206
                24385661
                96159437-8594-4e7c-988e-b2ef0b93c0b2
                © 2014
                History

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