Incorporating Economic Policy Into A ‘Health-In-All-Policies’ Agenda

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Housing Policy Debate


Recognizing the health effects of nonhealth policies, scholars and others seeking to improve Americans’ health have advocated the implementation of a culture of health—which would call attention to and prioritize health as a key outcome of policy making across all levels of government and in the private sector. Adopting this “health-in-all-policies” lens, policy makers are paying increasing attention to health impacts as they debate policies in areas such as urban planning, housing, and transportation. Yet the health impacts of economic policies that shape the distribution of income and wealth are often overlooked. Pooling data from all fifty states for the period 1990–2010, we provide a broad portrait of how economic policies affect health. Overall, we found better health outcomes in states that enacted higher tax credits for the poor or higher minimum wage laws and in states without a right-to-work law that limits union power. Notably, these policies focus on increasing the incomes of low-income and working-class families, instead of on shaping the resources available to wealthier individuals. Incorporating these findings into a health-in-all-policies agenda will require leadership from the health sector, including a willingness to step into core and polarizing debates about redistribution.