Americans suffering worse health than peers in other countries

Bernice Rumala

The National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine recently released a report on the state of American's health compared to other countries. It found that the health and safety of U.S. citizens falls behind 16 other affluent nations. Bernice B. Rumala, assistant professor in the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, is available to comment.

Rumala said, "This report further underscores the important role that social determinants of health have on impacting health equity and ultimately public health outcomes.  Health equity examines differences in outcomes in groups of people that are considered preventable and unfair. Numerous studies have shown that despite the United States being ranked among the wealthiest countries in the world, we still have one of the worst health outcomes, especially in terms of infant mortality rates, one of the major indicators for the health status of a nation. 

"Previous studies have focused specifically on low socio-economic status (SES) populations and racial/ethnic minorities, however this study has highlighted that there are larger contextual factors beyond socio economic status that are resulting in poorer health outcomes for everyone, not just the disadvantaged or racial/ethnic minorities. Similarly in previous studies, outcomes of poorer health were seen in racial/ethnic minorities with high SES when all other variables were controlled for. Therefore, in closely examining the micro and macro contextual factors impacting these inequities, social determinants of health provides a lens with which to address these health inequities. 

"Social determinants of health take into account where an individual lives, works and plays, that is, examining the physical environment, social environment, policies and interventions and access to quality health care as contributors to health and well-being. A social determinants of health lens recognizes that one factor is not responsible but rather achieving health equity is multifactorial and needs to be addressed though community engagement - partnering with communities to translate research and policies to improve public health,  and changing the social and physical environment. Hence health disparities and community engagement has been one of the core foci for the National Institute for Minority Health and Health disparities (NIMHD) and as part of the translational research paradigm for the NIH National Center for advancing Translational science.

"With the community based primary care mission of Quinnipiac University School of Medicine, we will be partnering with community to educate a cadre of physicians who will understand the impact of the social determinants of health on health equity and will be equipped to addressing these health inequities through patient care, scholarly endeavors, and community engagement."

Bernice B. Rumala's areas of expertise include health equity, policy, community engagement and medical education to improve public health outcomes. She holds PhD, Ed.M, M.A., and M.Phil degrees and completed her doctoral training at Columbia University.

Back to top