March 1, 2014

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center on Society and Health is partnering with the Urban Institute to document the scope of health disparities across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and to research potential explanations for these differences across five domains: state-level differences in health systems, health behaviors, social and economic factors, the physical and social environment, and public policies and social spending. 

This project builds off of a report released by the National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), entitled U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, which found that Americans are dying sooner and experiencing greater disease than people in 16 other high income countries. We are applying the model of the NRC/IOM report to review state and local health patterns with the aim of uncovering potential root causes for why some states are unhealthier than others and why even more dramatic disparities exist in metropolitan areas of major cities.  

We will release a full-length report and state-specific summaries of our findings. The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of upstream factors and policies outside of health care that shape the health of the U.S. states and contribute to the growing U.S. health disadvantage, so that state leaders can set better priorities about how to improve the health of their populations.