Briefcase: Social Determinants to Health

A look at research from Associate Professor Jessica Mantel.


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Although millions of Americans gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act, many remain in poor health. Research shows today's children may become the first generation to experience shorter lives than their parents.

Associate Professor Jessica Mantel, with the Health Law and Policy Institute, has been studying why Health Care Reform isn't enough.

"While having access to affordable medical care can improve individual health, we also need to address the social determinants of health," Mantel said. "Environmental, social, and behavioral factors have a major impact on well-being, like smoking and poor housing conditions. In fact, research shows these factors can play an even bigger role in affecting health, than access to medical care."

Professor Mantel says health care providers are increasingly turning their attention to these factors. "Changes in how the government and insurers pay for care encourage providers to go beyond addressing clinical needs," she said, "such as helping patients enroll in public assistance programs or suing landlords who rent unhealthy apartments."