INCOME LEVELS: LINKED TO HOSPITALIZATION AND DEATH RATES
A University of California at Berkeley study published inThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
the British Medical Journal reports a "strong correlation"
between a state's income disparity and mortality rate. According
to the study, the greater the gap between a state's proportion of
wealthy and poor residents, the lower the state's average life
expectancy is likely to be. The study adjusted for age and
controlled for median income.
CAUSES: SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE reports that it is
theorized that a large income disparity may be due to a greater
proportion of "extremely poor people" in the state. Poorer
people face a number of challenges to good health, including
stress from their home and work environments. Also, the poor and
the poorly educated tend to exercise less, eat fattier foods and
smoke. George Kaplan, UC Berkeley's chief of the Human
Population Laboratory, said however, that "lack of access to
medical care isn't the major cause of bad health" among low-
income people because the income level/death rate connection
holds true even in countries like Sweden, the Netherlands and the
United Kingdom that have national health care systems.
EUROPE TOO: The Berkeley study expanded earlier findings
from the University of Sussex, England. R.G. Wilkinson studied
eight European countries and found that life expectancy was
strongly linked to income distribution. He used Japan as an
illustration, stating their long life expectancy is probably due
to the fact of their "most egalitarian income distribution of any
country on record" (Marshall, 7/22).
BACK IN THE U.S.A: The Medical College of Wisconsin's
Health Policy Institute released a study that concluded that
inner city residents were hospitalized up to five times more than
wealthier residents. The reason for the greater rate of
hospitalization among the city's poor was due mostly to
"preventable and manageable diseases" such as diabetes, asthma,
chronic bronchitis and congestive heart failure. Richard Cooper,
director of the Health Policy Institute, said that while higher
hospitalization rates were to be expected in low-income areas,
"[t]he differences between the various socioeconomic zones were
quite striking." He added, "We didn't anticipate the magnitude
of the difference."
NO PROGRESS: MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL reports that the
study suggests that recent preventive health efforts in low-
income areas of Milwaukee "may not be working." Robert W. Agnew,
a Health Policy Institute board member, stated that the report
showed that "we are not getting the job done in the inner city"
and "that the cost for everyone (as a result) is very high."
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION: Researchers from the Medical
College cited a one-year savings of "$150 million" if the
hospitalization rates for the poorest areas match the rates of
more affluent areas. "The difference economically also is so
huge it makes it worthwhile to find out why there's this
disparity and do something about it," Cooper said (Sharma-Jensen,