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The impact of economic inequality on health care and health status in the U.S.

There is a thought-provoking essay by Donald Barr, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, in the Boston Review today discussing how rapidly rising health-care costs combined with expanding unemployment rates have left millions of families in the United States exposed to potential economic crisis in the event of an illness or injury.

The piece includes a number of alarming statistics on the inequities in the cost of health care and health insurance in America but, as Barr explains, this data only tells part of the story. He writes:

Economic inequality brings with it inequality in health outcomes, independently of access to health care. A 25-year-old American with income more than four times the poverty level will live, on average, five years longer than a 25 year old with income less than twice the poverty line.5 Those with a college education are three times as likely to report excellent or very good health status as those who did not finish high school.6 Those with less than a high school degree are twice as likely to experience coronary heart disease as those of the same age who have graduated from college.7 Money and education secure not just more life but a healthier one as well.

Barr is one of several Stanford faculty members, students and community leaders who are facilitating discussions on a range of topics, including disparities in education and health care, population growth and environmental sustainability, at tomorrow's Occupy the Future event.

Also among the group is Mark Cullen, MD, professor of general medical disciplines, who is leading a teach-in session on health equity and inequity. Cullen said his talk will examine how "the underlying social and economic disparities are the root cause of health disparities. [How] these are compounded by high disparate access and quality of care, [which] are now made even worse by the increased shifting of the costs of care to those who can afford it least - working Americans."

Previously: Occupy the Future awareness event to take place at Stanford tomorrow and Study shows increase in health disparities among young Americans

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