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J Epidemiol Community Health 61:658-659 doi:10.1136/jech.2006.059063
  • Relationship between politics and health
  • Editorial

Politics and health

  1. Carme Borrell1,
  2. Albert Espelt1,
  3. Maica Rodríguez-Sanz1,
  4. Vincente Navarro2
  1. 1Agència de Salut Pública de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  2. 2Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr C Borrell
 Agència de Salut Pública de Barcelona, Pl Lesseps 1, Barcelona 08023, Spain; cborrell{at}aspb.cat

    Effect of politics and policies on socioeconomic health inequalities

    The amount of scientific literature on social inequalities in health has increased exponentially in recent years. However, the effect of politics and policies on health and on social inequalities in health has rarely been studied. Navarro et al1,2 proposed a multidimensional conceptual framework that has been used to understand the relationship between politics and health outcomes (fig 1). It is a schematic attempt to show how politics (expressed in terms of electoral behaviour and trade union characteristics) is related to expansion of the welfare state, in turn reflecting the degree to which societies take care of their citizens,3 and labour market policies. The welfare state and labour market policies have an effect on income and social inequalities in the population. As fig 1 shows, all these policies and factors are related to health and inequalities in health.

    Figure 1

     Model showing the relationship between power resources, labour market, welfare state, socioeconomic inequalities and health outcomes (some examples of variables are also shown). Source: Navarro et al.1 GDP, gross domestic product.

    Several authors have described typologies of welfare regimes in wealthy countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.4,5 Navarro et al1,6 have considered four types of countries based on the typology of Huber and Stephens.5 First, social democratic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Austria) have been governed (either alone or as the major party in a coalition) by social democratic parties for long periods of time during the second part of the 20th century and where unions are …