Originally published on February 23, 2016 on USNews by Alvin Powell.
If you want to get an idea of the gap between the world's sickest and healthiest people, don't fly to a faraway land. Just look around the United States.
Health inequality is part of American life, so deeply entangled with other social problems — disparities in income, education, housing, race, gender, and even geography — that analysts have trouble saying which factors are cause and which are effect. The confusing result, they say, is a massive chicken-and-egg puzzle, its solution reaching beyond just health care. Because of that, everyday realities often determine whether people live in health or infirmity, to a ripe old age or early death.
"There are huge inequalities in this country that often get overlooked … If you want to observe the problems of poverty and inequality, you don't need to travel all the way to Malawi. You can go to a rural house in America," said Ichiro Kawachi, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Social Epidemiology and chair of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "If you're born a black man in, let's say, New Orleans Parish, your average life expectancy is worse than the male average of countries that are much poorer than America."
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