Accumulating Knowledge on the Social Determinants of Health and Infectious Disease

Paula Braveman, MD, MPHa,b
aUniversity of California, San Francisco, Department of Family and Community Medicine, San Francisco, CA
bUniversity of California, San Francisco, Center on Social Disparities in Health, San Francisco, CA

The importance of social factors—particularly absolute poverty and its consequences— as determinants of infectious disease has been recognized since the 19th century. Although awareness of the social determinants of noninfectious disease is far more recent, a sizable body of knowledge has accumulated in the past two decades identifying diverse social factors—including, but not limited
to, socioeconomic factors—and plausible mechanisms that may explain how
those factors influence health and both infectious and noninfectious disease. I
will briefly mention only a few of the areas of rapidly expanding knowledge—
the socioeconomic gradient in health and potential material and psychosocial
pathways that may explain it, including the role of stress and the life-course
perspective—and implications for public health research and policy.

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