Longevity Equity—for Life Expectancy

by Noble A-W Maseru, PhD, MPH

In 2008, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Commission on Social Determinants of Health released a report. In it, the commission examined reasons for differences in people having good and bad health—in essence, a long or short life. The commission’s principal finding for the differences in people’s health was the social conditions in which people are born, live and work. For this article, we see the place where one lives as tantamount to social conditions. These social conditions are largely determined by what are commonly called “bread and butter” issues. Researchers call them social determinants of health.

So how do bread and butter issues like food, transportation, housing, education and a living wage affect life expectancy? In the United States in 1900, life expectancy averaged 47 years. In 2000, life expectancy increased to 77 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined 25


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