121-140 of 178 Results

Article

Parent–Adult Child Ties and Older Adult Health and Well-Being  

J. Jill Suitor, Yifei Hou, Catherine Stepniak, Robert T. Frase, and Destiny Ogle

Parents and children continue to impact each other’s lives across the life course. Intergenerational relationships affect older adults’ physical and psychological well-being in a multitude of complex processes. Contact and interaction with adult offspring, as well as both giving and receiving support and caregiving, can have either positive or negative effects on parents’ well-being, depending upon whether these experiences are perceived by the older adults as enriching, harmonious, and desired. Furthermore, the impact of parent–adult child relations on older adults’ health is shaped by social structural characteristics of families and individual family members, such as race, ethnicity, and gender, as well as by cultural contexts within and across nations. Generally, close intergenerational relationships characterized by high levels of contact and reciprocal exchanges of support positively affect older parents’ well-being, whereas tense intergenerational relationships characterized by adult children’s problems or disregard for older adults’ values and autonomy negatively affect older parents’ well-being.

Article

The Political Determinants of Health: A Global Panacea for Health Inequities  

Daniel E. Dawes, Christian M. Amador, and Nelson J. Dunlap

The political determinants of health create the structural conditions and the social drivers—including poor environmental conditions, inadequate transportation, unsafe neighborhoods, poor and unstable housing, and lack of healthy food options—that affect all dynamics involved in health. Globally, recurring examples of the role that these political determinants—through government action or inaction, and policy—are playing in health outcomes and life expectancy, particularly in under-resourced communities, can be observed currently as well as historically. Most notably, the political determinants of health are more than merely separate and distinct from social determinants of health: they serve as the instigators of the social determinants of health with which many people are already well acquainted. They involve the systematic process of structuring relationships, distributing resources, and administering power, operating simultaneously in ways that mutually reinforce or influence one another to shape opportunities that either advance health equity or exacerbate health inequities. Focusing on the political determinants of health homes in on the fundamental causes that give rise to, sustain, and exacerbate the social determinants of health that create and worsen the persistent and devastating health inequities that are observed, experienced, researched, and reported. By employing both a theoretical and practical lens to the amelioration of health inequities that continue to pervade communities across the globe, the article contextualizes many of the historic harms that have occurred throughout history, providing a unique perspective on the current state of affairs, and offering a tangible path forward toward a more equitable future. Furthermore, consideration of this new framework at all levels of government as it relates to improving health outcomes for any nation is imperative in order to eliminate existential threats for any and all populations.

Article

Post-Disaster Recovery and Social Capital  

Suzanne Vallance and Ashley Rudkevitch

Disaster scholarship has resurrected interest in social capital, and it has become well established that strong social ties—bonding capital—can also help individuals and communities to survive in times of crisis, as well as provide substantial and wide-ranging benefits on the long road to recovery. The theoretical tripartite of bonding capital generated in “close ties,” bridging capital developed through “associations,” and linking capital from possibly cool but nonetheless “civil” encounters is also reasonably well established. So too are the currencies of trust and reciprocity. Social capital is noted to be a potent resource capable of facilitating many benefits in terms of health and well-being, and it is considered fundamental to post-disaster attempts to Build Back Better in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Indeed, the idea of social capital has become almost synonymous with resilience. Nonetheless, it is also acknowledged that there may be disadvantages associated with social capital, such as tribalism, neoptism, and marginalization. Scholarship therefore paints a rather complex picture, and there is still considerable debate about what social capital is: what it does, where it comes from and where it goes, and for what purpose. Without denying the value of a celebratory approach that focuses on the benefits, it is concluded that there is a need for more attention to be given to the broader ideological contexts that may shape the generative and distributional effects of social capital, particularly as these underscore health and well-being outcomes post-disaster.

Article

Pregnancy and Non-Sexually Transmitted Infections  

Ana Luiza Vilela Borges, Christiane Borges do Nascimento Chofakian, and Ana Paula Sayuri Sato

The focus on non-sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy is relevant, as they are one of the main causes of fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality in many regions of the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries, respecting no national boundaries. While their possible vertical transmission may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes, congenital rubella syndrome, measles, mumps, varicella, influenza, Zika virus, dengue, malaria, and toxoplasmosis are all preventable by measures such as vector control or improvement in sanitation, education, and socioeconomic status. Some are likewise preventable by specific vaccines already available, which can be administered in the first years of childhood. A package for intervention also includes adequate preconception care, routine antenatal screening, diagnosis, and treatment during pregnancy. Non-sexually transmitted diseases during pregnancy have different worldwide distributions and occasionally display as emerging or re-emerging diseases. Their epidemiological and clinical aspects, as well as evidence-based prevention and control measures, are relevant to settings with ongoing transmission or those about to be in vulnerable situations. Non-sexually transmitted infections are major public and global health concerns as potential causes of epidemics or pandemics, with numerous social, economic, and societal impacts..

Article

Preterm Birth: Epidemiology, Risk Factors, Pathogenesis, and Prevention  

Xiaojing Zeng, Wen Jiang, Xiaoqing He, and Jun Zhang

Preterm birth is a significant global public health issue. It is defined by the World Health Organization as infants born alive before 37 completed weeks of gestation. The preterm birth rate varies significantly across countries and regions. Globally, an estimated 13.4 million babies were born preterm in 2020 (i.e., 1 in 10 babies worldwide was preterm birth). It is the leading cause of under-5 child mortality worldwide, and preterm infants are particularly vulnerable to respiratory complications, feeding difficulty, poor body temperature regulation, and high risk of infection. Both genetic and nongenetic factors (exposome factors) contribute to the risk of preterm birth. Social and behavioral factors, medical and pregnancy conditions, and environmental exposures are common nongenetic risk factors for preterm birth. Individuals from certain ethnic and racial groups, in low- and middle-income countries, or with a low socioeconomic status are at an increased risk of having preterm birth, and social determinants of health are the root causes of these factors. Existing pregnancy complications, history of preterm birth, and other medical conditions are also common risk factors. Environmental exposures such as air pollution, climate change, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been increasingly realized as potential risk factors for preterm birth. Various pathological events in different feto-maternal systems have been reported to be involved in the development of preterm birth. Immunopathogenesis plays a pivotal role, and both pathogenic and nonpathogenic inflammation can induce preterm birth. Oxidative stress, decidual hemorrhage and vascular lesions, uterine overdistension, and cervical insufficiency have all been proposed to contribute to the pathophysiology of preterm birth. Prevention strategies for preterm birth include primary prevention aimed at the modifiable risk factors at the individual and societal levels and therapeutic approaches using pharmaceuticals and mechanical interventions, such as progesterone and cervical cerclage. A comprehensive approach is still needed to reduce the global disease burden of preterm birth.

Article

Preventing Falls Through Service Innovations: Institutional and Hospital Settings  

Keith Hill

Falls in hospital and residential care settings are common events that can have major impacts for the older person, their families, and staff and also at an organizational level. They are a major trigger event for those with chronic health problems to advance to greater levels of care because they often result in traumatic injuries while they provide a signal event for declining health that may have gone unobserved before injury. Falls among older people in hospital and residential care settings are often caused by a complex mix of risk factors and have proved difficult to prevent. There is growing research evidence that a mix of universal falls prevention interventions that are applied to all patients or residents, as well as targeted interventions addressing one or more identified personal and environmental falls risk factors (often based on a falls risk factor assessment and environmental assessment) can help to reduce risk of future falls in hospitals and residential care. Preventing falls among older people in hospitals and residential care settings requires a complete staff and organizational focus.

Article

Prevention of Suicide  

Danuta Wasserman

Around 700,000 people take their lives each year worldwide. Suicide accounts for approximately 1.3% of all deaths and therefore represents a major public health problem. The global age-standardized suicide rate is 9 per 100,000 population, yet there are large variations among genders, ages, countries, and world regions. The stress–vulnerability model of suicidal behaviors has been proposed to explain how a diathesis, developed through the influence of genetic and neurodevelopmental factors in relation to perinatal, postnatal, and life experiences, interacts with different risk and protective factors that either decrease or enhance the individual’s level of resilience to stress and suicidal risk. Public health suicide prevention strategies include suicide means restriction, reducing harmful substance use, promoting responsible media reporting, public-awareness campaigns, gatekeeper trainings, school-based interventions, crisis helplines, and postvention. Mental health strategies comprise identification, treatment, and rehabilitation of persons in distress and at risk for suicide. Multicomponent strategies that use a combination of evidence-based methods from public and mental health sectors are recommended. Future work should aim at enhancing the quality of epidemiological data, improving the research on protective and ideation-to-action factors, expanding the quantity and quality of data coming from low- and middle-income countries, and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of different suicide prevention strategies.

Article

Priming Healthcare for Health Equity Management  

Ebbin D. Dotson, Kimson E. Johnson, and Jada Irving

Health equity management (HEM) is defined as an actionable framework that supports the development of an industry-defining position for healthcare organizations and senior leaders to guide their business practices for investments in and financial gains from health equity. As healthcare leaders confront the disparate racial and ethnic burdens caused by the nation’s racialized societal history, making investments that increase health equity can help eliminate health disparities. To achieve health equity, leaders must cultivate a sense of interdependence among stakeholders and community members to effectively communicate the importance of collaboration, which is a shared understanding of the necessary actions that engage stakeholders around a central purpose. Achieving health equity forces healthcare systems to consider the notion that creating an equitable environment, where the costs of health inequity and barriers to achieving community and population health are shared with stakeholders and community members, might be addressed by the modification of certain management practices. HEM encompasses an applied management model to help healthcare organizations maximize their efforts to increase health equity for vulnerable populations. It provides a stepwise approach to help frame the social, economic, and educational changes necessary for leaders to invest in health equity initiatives. The HEM involves the following actions: (a) redefining health equity, (b) identifying upstream inequalities, (c) realigning fiscal investments, and (d) leveraging community partnerships. Establishing and sustaining health equity initiatives through HEM ensures that both economic and social criteria are systematically considered, and financial investments are prioritized for sustained impact. Without addressing all four, the efforts of healthcare organizations will fall short of what it will take to effect lasting change. Redefining health equity requires incorporating upstream and downstream inequities to offer a lens to align mission, assess capacity, and leverage profitable partnerships. The systematic approach to HEM goals and principles can be integrated at various organizational levels as a tool to successfully address health inequalities and social determinants of health.

Article

Productive Engagement of Older Adults  

Nancy Morrow-Howell and Peter Sun

Population aging has largely been approached as a problem. Demographic shifts toward aging societies have been viewed from a deficit perspective. Certainly, the remarkable extension of human life has created challenges to individuals, families, healthcare and social care systems, and income security policies. Yet, the “age-drain” approach fails to recognize the vast heterogeneity of the older population and the growing human capital among older adults. The productive-aging perspective is an alternative to the age-drain perspective that can shape social approaches to population aging. The concept of productive aging was introduced by Dr. Robert Butler in 1985, and he called for the redirection of attention from the dependencies associated with later life to the actual and potential contribution of older adults. Further, he suggested that society could not afford to dismiss the growing capacity of the older population. From the productive-aging perspective, the capacity of older adults to contribute to families and communities through working, volunteering, and caregiving is highlighted. It is likely that societies will need more people in these roles longer into the life course, and it is possible to facilitate engagement in these roles to maximize positive outcomes for older adults and society. Productive engagement is defined as engaging in activities that produce goods and services, whether paid for or not, including working, volunteering (formal and informal), and caregiving. In all these cases, monetary values have been assigned to the contributions made by people over a certain age, depending on the age selected by the researcher. Outcomes of productive engagement have been conceptualized at multiple levels, including well-being for older people, experienced person-power for organizations, relief to retirement income programs, and stronger civic society. Attaining these outcomes requires social policies and programs that increase opportunities for all segments of the older population. Since the conceptual beginnings, scholars have proposed that productive engagement be viewed as an outcome of extra-individual factors, distinguishing this perspective from the successful aging paradigm that focused more on individual determinants. To date, outdated programs and policies have constrained the engagement of older adults as workers, volunteers, and caregivers. Many innovations have been proposed, and promising interventions are being demonstrated. The aim is to transform work environments and employment policies to enable people to work longer, to increase opportunities to engage older adults in volunteer roles while helping organizations more fully utilize this talent pool, and to improve support for caregiving and other forms of care work in later life. The goal is to create opportunities and to facilitate engagement in productive roles—not to exploit or coerce older people or to exclude lower-resourced individuals who have been marginalized across their life course. Fundamentally, progress depends on changing attitudes about aging and dispelling current assumptions about older adults and aging populations.

Article

Psychosocial Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease in African Americans  

Amy L. Ai, Hoa B. Appel, and Sabrina L. Dickey

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, but the burden of CVD falls disproportionately on racial and ethnic minority populations. Blacks are especially impacted by CVD. Since the 2010s, mortality from CVD has declined and life expectancy disparity between White and Black males has decreased. However, the mortality rate in Blacks remains the highest among all racial and ethnic groups. For example, concerning survival differences between White and Black patients with acute myocardial infarction, 5-year mortality for Black patients is significantly higher than that for White patients. Also, hypertension or high blood pressure and stroke, two of the most disabling diseases, burden Blacks much more than other groups. Furthermore, several major CVD comorbidities or risk factors are linked with disparity in Blacks, especially diabetes, obesity, and chronic kidney diseases. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor. Blacks and Hispanics, as well as Asian American women, all have higher rates of physical inactivity compared with Whites. The literature indicates the remarkable psychosocial and environmental issues that underlie CVD disparities in Black populations. Specifically, the social determinants of health (SDOH) have been shown to be significant indicators of CVD morbidity and mortality causing a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities and low socioeconomic status populations. These SDOH involving economic stability, education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context provide a framework for a multifactorial approach to understand the impact of CVD on the Black community. The Black community has a history of trauma from racism and discrimination, which is still evident in the existence of structural racism. Trust in the health care system within the Black community remains an ongoing issue and stems from the unethical Tuskegee Study. The lack of trust in the U.S. health care system by the Black community is evident in the limited number of Black participants in research and the excess of health disparities within the Black community. Utilizing SDOH provides a context for understanding the complexity of addressing health disparities among historically marginalized groups. A unifactorial approach will not suffice when there are a number of physical, psychosocial, economic, and environment factors that adversely impact the health of underserved and underrepresented groups such as African Americans. Stringent policies to address racism, discrimination, and adequate access to health care for the Black community must be implemented to decrease the presence of CVD as a health disparity. Without the presence of a social and physical environment that provides adequate resources, such as health care services, quality education to attain employment and be health literate, employment to afford access to health care, and the support to engage in preventive care, African Americans will continue to suffer from various health disparities, such as CVD, and have shorter life spans compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

Article

Public Health and the UN Sustainable Development Goals  

Claire E. Brolan

The COVID-19 crisis—the most catastrophic international public health emergency since the Spanish influenza 100 years ago—provides impetus to review the significance of public and global health in the context of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) achievement. When countries unanimously adopted the 17 SDGs in September 2015, stakeholders had mixed views on global health goal SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being). Concern arose over the feasibility of achieving SDG 3 by 2030 when countries pursued its nine targets and four means of implementation with sixteen other ambitious global goals. Nonetheless, health surely cuts across the SDG framework: for instance, the underlying health determinants are expressed in many goals as is urban and planetary health. Although health (and its different constructions) is central to overall SDG achievement, SDG success depends on a paradigm shift toward whole-of-government policy and planning. Indeed, the 2030 Agenda echoes calls for a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach to public health programming. This depends on another paradigm shift in public health tertiary education, practitioner training, and policy skills development within and beyond ministries of health. Added to this are the underlying problematics around SDG health financing, human resources for health, health target and indicator localization for equitable country responses that leave no one behind, strengthening civil registration and vital statistics systems for inclusive and accountable health implementation, and the sidelining of human rights from SDG metrics. While COVID-19 has derailed SDG efforts, it could also be the ultimate game changer for intergenerational human and environmental health transformation. Yet strong global health governance and rights-based approaches remain key.

Article

Public Health Impact of Breastfeeding  

Colin Binns and Mi Kyung Lee

Breastfeeding is one of the best public health “buys” available for countries at all levels of development. In the first year of life, appropriate infant nutrition (exclusive breastfeeding to around 6 months) reduces infant mortality and hospital admissions by 50% or more. Early life nutrition has important influences, including on childhood illnesses, obesity, cognitive development, hospitalizations, and later chronic disease. Breastfeeding is consistent with the historical cultural practices of all societies, and its benefits of breastfeeding last a lifetime. While the development of infant formula has been of benefit to some infants, its inappropriate promotion has resulted in a decline of breastfeeding, and, as a result, health gains in many countries have not been as great as they could have been. The health benefits of breastfeeding will provide some protection against the effects of climate change, which will cause a decline in potable water supplies and increases in the incidence of some infections. Infant formula production has very high environmental costs, while breastfeeding as well as being the best infant feeding intervention also has very low environmental impact. An important part of the sustainable development agenda must be to promote breastfeeding and its benefits and to reverse the inappropriate promotion and use of infant formula.

Article

Global Public Health Impact of Vaccines in Children  

Peter McIntyre and Tony Walls

From the first vaccine (cowpox, developed by Edward Jenner in 1796), more than 100 years elapsed before additional vaccines for broad population use (diphtheria toxoid, tetanus toxoid, and whole cell pertussis) became available between 1920 and 1940. Then followed inactivated polio vaccine in the 1950s, and live attenuated vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, and polio in the 1960s. In 1979, global elimination of smallpox was formally certified, with the last human case occurring in Somalia, almost 200 years after Jenner administered cowpox vaccine to James Phipps. In 2019, global elimination is tantalizingly close for maternal and neonatal tetanus and polio. Despite recent outbreaks, elimination has also been achieved at country and regional levels for measles and rubella and, if achieved globally, will offer, as it has for smallpox, large reductions in child mortality and morbidity and in health system costs. Short of elimination, it is important to define the public health impact of vaccines broadly and at the population level. These broader impacts include benefits to families flowing from prevention of long-term sequelae of infection in children, and to populations and health systems from reduced transmission of infection. Importantly, well-delivered vaccination programs will have a substantial impact by improving equality in health outcomes across populations. Broader impacts include reductions in syndromic disease beyond laboratory-proven infection (e.g., diarrhea and pneumonia), indirect reductions in disease in those not immunized (within and beyond age cohorts targeted by vaccine programs), and improvements in other health services driven by the infrastructure for vaccine delivery. Measurement of these broader impacts can be challenging and must also acknowledge the potential for trade-offs, such as replacement disease due to non-vaccine strains, as documented for pneumococcal infection. The realization of the benefits of vaccines globally for all children began with the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1974. The EPI focused on improving coverage of six already available but grossly underutilized vaccines—diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis (DTP), polio, measles, and Bacille Calmette–Guerin (BCG). Through the EPI, estimated global coverage for 3 doses of DTP increased from around 20% to over 85%. Subsequent to the EPI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (GIVS), and, most recently, the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) have aimed to improve access to additional vaccines in the poorest countries. These include Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B, pneumococcal conjugate, rotavirus, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, all introduced in high-income countries from the 1990s. In this chapter, the scope and methodological issues in measuring public health impact are reviewed, and estimates of the global public health impact of individual vaccines in children summarized, concluding with potential future benefits to global child health from expanded maternal vaccination and vaccines under development.

Article

Public Sector Participation in the Water Sector: Opportunities and Pitfalls  

Sebastian Galiani

Water is one the most indispensable human needs. Although pumped wells, bottled water, or public faucets are used in many parts of the world as means to obtain this crucial good, piped water services are considered the gold standard to ensure wide, regular, and secure access. At first glance, piped water services have all the characteristics of a natural monopoly in which the government is better positioned for provision than the private sector: high sunk costs and economies of scale are present, and the quality of the service is costly to supervise. However, in that first intuition, there is one missing block: government behavior. In countries with low state capacity and accountability, weak checks and balances, and institutional dysfunction, public companies are frequently used to fulfill political goals instead of their stated objectives. In those cases, privatization coupled with the creation of an independent regulatory agency can limit the predatory capacity of the government, displace the service to the sphere of private incentives, and provide the opportunity to extend coverage and improve quality. There is, nonetheless, a fragile side to this solution. If the same institutional vulnerabilities that create poor public companies’ management persist, incentives for predatory government behavior remain latent and can emerge when circumstances facilitate it. This whole parable was observed with the privatization of Obras Sanitarias de la Nación in Argentina. First, a paralyzed and overstaffed public company was replaced by a dynamic private company. During this period, more than 2 million people gained access to the water service and 1.2 million people gained access to the sewage networks, which substantially improved health outcomes for the newly incorporated groups. Then a big economic crisis hit the contractual relationship between the government and the company, and renationalization took place. This change was paired with a return of previously observed predatory practices such as unsustainable pricing policy and non-meritocratic appointments.

Article

Racism and Indigenous Health  

Yin Paradies

There are an estimated 300 million indigenous peoples worldwide. Although there is ample evidence of worse health and social outcomes for the majority of indigenous peoples, compared to their non-indigenous counterparts, there has yet to be a review of racism as a determinant of indigenous health using global literature. Racism constitutes unfair and avoidable disparities in power, resources, capacities, or opportunities centered on ethnic, racial, religious, or cultural differences that can occur at three levels: internalized, interpersonal, or systemic. For indigenous peoples this is closely related to ongoing processes of colonization. Available research suggests that at least a third of indigenous adults experience racism at least once during their lives and that about a fifth of indigenous children experience racism. For indigenous peoples, racism has been associated with a considerable range of health outcomes, including psychological distress, anxiety, depression, suicide, posttraumatic stress disorder, asthma, physical illness, obesity, cardiovascular disease, increased blood pressure, excess body fat, poor sleep, reduced general physical and mental health, and poor oral health, as well as increased alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use and underutilization of medical and mental healthcare services. Disparities in medical care experienced by indigenous patients compared to non-indigenous patients have also been found. Existing studies indicate that avoidant and passive coping tends to exacerbate the detrimental health impacts of racism for indigenous peoples, whereas active coping ameliorates the ill-health effects of racism. Reducing individual and interpersonal racism can be achieved by (a) providing accurate information and improving awareness of the nature of racism and racial bias; (b) activating values of fairness, reconciling incompatible beliefs, and developing antiracist motivation; (c) fostering empathy and perspective-taking and confidence in regulating emotional responses; (d) improving comfort with other groups and reducing anxiety; and (e) reinforcing antiracist social norms and highlighting personal accountability. There are five key areas for combating systemic racism in organizations and institutions: (a) institutional accountability; (b) diversity in human resources; (c) community partnership; (d) antiracism and cultural competence training; and (e) research and evaluation.

Article

Rebooting Education: A Keystone to Ending Racial and Ethnic Minority Health Disparities  

William A. Vega and Esther J. Calzada

Undermining educational attainment at any stage is a threat to life course health. A strong educational platform is required for adequate human development in the 21st century because it provides a foundation for lifelong knowledge, skills, and competencies that protect health. The importance of educational attainment for health has been acknowledged but remains understudied as an interdisciplinary issue. In US American society, unequal educational opportunity is a historical reality and is reflected in health disparities among African American and Latinx populations over the life span. Reform efforts have been initiated for decades, yet gains in educational attainment show limited progress and wide disparities in lifetime health persist. Educational attainment is a fundamental social determinant of health because it leverages higher income, improves the management of other social determinants of health, improves social skills, improves occupational life chances, and extends life expectancy. The reverse is also true. Low educational attainment that is intergenerational imperils human development by failing to prepare youth with the capabilities to overcome structural disadvantages and poverty, which themselves imperil development. African American and Latinx populations in the United States, who together represent nearly 100 million people and who will be the largest component of the majority-minority American population by the year 2046, confront a web of aversive social determinants, including poverty in de facto segregated communities, violence and trauma, toxic exposures, poorly compensated and often temporary employment, a lack of universal health insurance, racism, and sexism in their daily lives. Clearly, there are social, biologic, and psychological issues associated with the educational attainment and health gradient, and early childhood learning experiences represent a critically important opportunity for human potential by advancing cognitive performance, problem-solving ability, motivation to learn, and overall structural and functional brain development. Families from low educational attainment backgrounds experience the negative impacts of social determinants in their daily lives, and their children’s life chances are diminished by poorly funded schools with ineffective educational programs. Putative causes and potential responses to overcoming the historical problem of neglect have been identified, and there are promising efforts at educational system reform aiming to promote health with effective programs and comprehensive strategies that will close the gaps in educational attainment.

Article

Regional Studies of Indigenous Health: Europe and Russia  

Peter Bjerregaard

The indigenous peoples of Europe and Russia comprise the Inuit in Greenland, the Sami in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and forty officially recognized ethnic minority groups in northern Russia plus a few larger-population indigenous peoples in Russia. While the health of the Inuit and Sami has been well studied, information about the health of the indigenous peoples of Russia is considerably scarcer. The overall health of the Sami is in many aspects not very different from that of their non-indigenous neighbors in northern Scandinavia; the health of the Inuit is similar across Greenland and North America and far less favorable than that of Denmark, southern Canada and the lower 48 American states, respectively; the health of the indigenous peoples of the Russian north is poor, partly due to poverty and alcohol.

Article

Regulating Quality in the Water Sector: A Theoretical Perspective  

Emmanuelle Auriol

Regulating quality is challenging because in public utilities such as water and sanitation, quality is multidimensional, is not always objectively measurable, and can be hard to verify, both ex ante and ex post. It is therefore useful to review the main insights from the New Economics of Regulation theoretical literature on quality provision to guide public policy. Focusing on formal utilities, this normative approach emphasizes the asymmetry of information between a regulator and the regulated companies. The analysis shows that when quality is verifiable, it can be included in a contract exactly like a quantity variable. Its provision, however, will be distorted as a result of regulated quantities also being distorted due to asymmetric information. When quality and quantity are complements, service quality ends up being lower because in the optimal regulatory contract, quantities are distorted downward for rent extraction. If quality is not verifiable but is observable by the users, the operator freely chooses its quality investment. It tends to underprovide quality when an improvement in quality raises the gross consumer surplus more than it increases the gross profit of sales because it does not take into account the nonmonetary benefit generated by its investment. It tends to overprovide quality otherwise. In order to correct these distortions, the regulator has to use a production allocation rule to simultaneously lower the informational rent and boost quality. The regulator has a single instrument to achieve the conflicting goals of rent extraction and quality provision. Quantities can be higher or lower than the first-best optimal levels depending on the correction needed to control quality. Finally, when quality is neither verifiable nor observable by consumers, as is typically the case with credence attributes such as those concerning process of production impacting security or pollution, the optimal level of quality investment from the firm’s perspective is zero. In this case, the easiest solution is often to impose a minimum standard and either rely on certification agencies to ensure that this minimum target is met or directly audit the quality investments made by the regulator. Finally, when improving the quality of water and sanitation services requires the creation of new infrastructure or institution, the high opportunity cost of public funds in developing countries raises the question of whether it is optimal to commit public funds for such investments. The analysis illuminates the trade-off between financing those investments with private funds and protecting consumer surplus.

Article

Religion, Aging, and Public Health  

Jeff Levin and Ellen Idler

Religion, in both its personal and institutional forms, is a significant force influencing the health of populations across the life course. Decades of research have documented that expressions of faith and the practice of spiritual pursuits exhibit significantly protective effects for physical and mental health, psychological well-being, and population rates of morbidity, mortality, and disability. This finding has been observed across sociodemographic categories, across nations and cultures, across specific disease outcomes, and regardless of one’s religious affiliation. A salutary religious effect on health and well-being is especially apparent among older adults, but is also observed across generations and age cohorts. Moreover, this association has been persistently found for various religious indicators, including attendance at worship services, prayer and other private practices, subjective feelings of religiosity, and numerous measures of religious behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. Finally, a protective or primary preventive effect of religion has been observed in clinical, epidemiologic, social, and behavioral studies, regardless of research design or methodology. Faith-based organizations also have contributed to the health of populations, in partnerships or alliances with medical institutions and public health agencies, many of these dating back many decades. Examples include congregational health promotion and disease prevention programs and community-wide interventions, especially targeting the health and well-being of older congregants and those in less well-resourced communities, as well as faith–health partnerships in healthcare delivery, public health policymaking, and legislative advocacy for healthcare reform. Religious denominations and institutions also play a substantial role in global health development throughout the world, individually and in partnership with national health ministries, transnational medical mission organizations, and established nongovernmental agencies. These efforts focus on a wide range of goals and objectives, including building public health infrastructure, addressing ongoing environmental health needs, and responding to acute public health challenges and crises, such as infectious disease outbreaks. Constituencies include at-risk populations and cohorts throughout the life course, and programming ranges from perinatal care to maternal and child healthcare to geriatric medicine.

Article

Risky Sexual Behaviors: Trends Among Young People (10–24 Years) in Four East African Countries  

Fredrick E. Makumbi, Sarah Nabukeera, Justine N. Bukenya, and Simon Peter Sebina Kibira

The future of sub-Saharan Africa depends on the health of young people (10–24 years) who form about one-third of the region’s population. This large population of young people is a potential asset for social-economic development if appropriate investments and social empowerment can be provided. Despite the vast opportunities, young people are faced with enormous social, economic, and health challenges. Young people’s health increasingly remains important especially with the use and misuse of narcotics (drugs and alcohol) a key risk factor for risky sexual behaviors (RSBs). RSBs are defined as behaviors that increase one’s risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and unintended pregnancies. RSBs include multiple sex partners, sex without a condom, alcohol use with sex, sex initiation before age 15, nonuse of modern contraceptives, and early marriage (before age 18 years). RSBs are reportedly influenced by a number of factors including lack of access to accurate, customized HIV information and prevention services, socioeconomic reasons, lack of parental control, peer pressure, and lack of youth-friendly recreational facilities. The consequences or impact of RSB, especially among the adolescents and young people, include poor health (STIs including HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths, and mental health such as psychological distress), and negative social and economic challenges (nonenrollment and nonretention in school and early child marriage). Understanding the trends in RSBs can provide insights in how well available interventions and policies have minimized their consequences among adolescents, and lay a basis to further develop more innovative and effective strategies especially in low-income countries.