National Institutes of Health, Aug. 28, 2012
The United States is an advanced and wealthy nation that ranks first in many health care areas including medical research as well as money spent on health care. Yet on several national health indicators, such as life expectancy, we rank lower than many less-developed countries – especially when looking at health measures across different racial/ethnic or socioeconomic groups. This is in part because our personal health and well-being is influenced by a complex web of factors that can many times affect us before we even see a doctor.
The places where we live, work and play are important factors that affect our health – things such as clean air and water, good schools, safe neighborhoods, access to quality medical care, habitable homes, and access to nourishing food. Many times these are the factors that are also directly related to how much money we make. Our health also involves personal choices such as what we eat, how often we exercise, or whether we use tobacco. All of these variables then interact to affect our personal health, and can even impact our epigenetic makeup. It’s important to consider all of the seemingly divergent but related factors when thinking about our health, especially when comparing health outcomes across different groups of people.