197850 Health inequities in global context: Evidence from the World Values Survey

Monday, November 9, 2009: 2:35 PM

Jason Beckfield, PhD , Department of Sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Sigrun Olafsdottir, PhD , Department of Sociology, Boston University, Boston, MA
The existence of social inequalities in health outcomes is well established in social science research from multiple disciplines. One strand of research focuses on inequalities in health within a single country. A separate and newer strand of research focuses on the relationship between aggregate inequality and population health across countries. Despite the theorization of (presumably variable) social and political conditions as determinants of population health and health inequities, the cross-national literature has focused on population health as the central outcome. Controversies currently surround macro-structural determinants of overall population health such as income inequality, the welfare state, and economic development. We argue that these debates would be advanced by conceptualizing inequalities in health as cross-national variables that are sensitive to social conditions. Using data from the third wave of the World Values Survey, we examine cross-national variation in inequalities in health. The results reveal dramatic variation in variations in health according to income and education. We find that this variation in the socioeconomic gradient can be partially accounted for by cross-national differences in economic development, population health, and, especially, income inequality. We conclude by discussing the implications of this research.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the magnitude of health inequities by educational attainment and income for 38 societies around the world. 2. Explain variation in health inequities as functions of political and economic arrangements. 3. Demonstrate the utility of cross-national research for understanding health inequities.

Keywords: Health Disparities, Politics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted the research and written the relevant papers, in collaboration with my co-author.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.