Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Science Battling Social, Economic Disparities in Health

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

 

 

 

  Science may be helping to eliminate socioeconomic disparities in health, according to researchers at Santa Monica-based Rand Corp. It could be accomplished in part by specific intervention, such as the adoption of a rigid treatment plan and intensive patient monitoring that help patients better manage their own treatment.

  This could have far-reaching effects on the nation’s graying population.

  The Rand study revealed an association between a patient’s level of education and adherence to complex treatment regimens for two diseases — HIV and diabetes. Researchers found  income, age, race, and gender were not as important as education in influencing one’s level of health. Differences associated with less education could be overcome, resulting in improved compliance and improved health outcomes.

  “Lower socioeconomic status — less education, and lower income and wealth – has for some time been strongly linked with poorer health,” said Rand researcher James P. Smith. “This research offers a new and practical explanation for why these differences in health may occur and how we might address them.” He noted that experts have looked at several possible explanations for health disparities associated with socioeconomic status. Researchers have found differences in access to health care and insurance or in smoking and drinking among affluent and poor groups, but exactly how these factors contribute to differences in health is unclear.

  “This report takes a clever and useful approach to looking at health disparities,” said Richard M. Suzman, associate director of the National Institutes of Aging’s Behavioral and Social Research Program. “We knew that education was one of the most important contributions to health and life expectancy, but were not sure exactly why. These analyses give us hope that we can define strategies to help improve the health of people with less education, using interventions for illnesses that require adherence to complex regimens.”

  The study of people with diabetes compared patients’ behaviors. When the researchers compared the conventional therapies with a more intensive therapeutic approach, they found that education no longer had an effect on outcome. There was little difference in health status among people in different educational groups using the more intensive, enforced treatment, showing that imposing strict adherence to a treatment regimen helped the less educated more than those with higher education.

  “These analyses show that the ability to adhere to a treatment regimen, while it can be influenced by education, is the bottom line for better health,” according to the Rand report. “Our study suggests to health providers that not all patients are alike in their ability to adhere to and maintain complicated medical regimens. But we also demonstrate that socioeconomic effects are amenable to change with training, monitoring, and possibly other approaches.”

  Many experts believe this could impact how the United States manages spiraling medical costs as the the largest population of seniors in the nation’s history begins using health-care resources at an unprecedented rate.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 28, 2011 at 12:05 am

Posted in Health

Tagged with , , ,

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