Publications

Social Determinants and Disparities in Health: Their Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ultimate Triumph(?) in Health Policy

David Mechanic has been a principal founder of modern sociological and social science approaches to health, especially in relation to health policy. These approaches have since the 1950s and 1960s resurrected ideas that had currency in the mid-nineteenth century but seemed crucified, dead, and buried by the rise of modern biomedicine from the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. Problems and lacunae in purely biomedical approaches to health in the later twentieth century, along with developments of new biopsychosocial approaches to health, have spawned a return toward ideas of Rudolf Virchow and mid-nineteenth-century social medicine that social determinants and disparities are major drivers of population health. Since individual health and population health constitute the major determinants of health care utilization and expenditures, social determinants and disparities in health are arguably the foundation of a new “demand-side” health policy that can resolve America's paradoxical health policy crisis of spending increasingly more than any nation on health care and insurance yet achieving increasingly worsening health outcomes relative to virtually all developed countries and some developing ones as well, something that current “supply-side” health policy, including Obamacare, cannot do, important as it is for expanding access to health insurance and care.