Political party policies to reduce social inequalities have better health outcomes

Political parties which implement redistributive policies designed to reduce social inequalities have a positive influence on population health, according to an Online/Public Health article published today (Thursday September 14, 2006) by The Lancet.

Vicente Navarro (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, ND, USA) and colleagues investigated the mechanisms by which politics determines public policy and therefore affects population health outcomes in selected North American and European members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) over a 50 year period (1950-2000). They categorised political parties into four major political traditions: social democratic, Christian democratic (or conservative in the Judeo-Christian tradition), liberal and authoritarian conservative (dictatorships) and found that countries mainly governed by social democratic parties had the most redistributive policies

The authors then analysed the relation between cumulative years of government by each political tradition and changes in two key health outcomes - infant mortality and life expectancy at birth. They found that long periods of government by pro-redistribution parties were associated with low infant mortality, and to a lesser degree, with increasing life expectancy.

The authors conclude that although the connection between ideology, social class constituency, and implementation of particular policies is complex: "redistributive policies seem to be important in reducing infant mortality and, to a lesser degree, in increasing life expectancy."

They add: "The implementation of policies aimed at reducing social inequalities seems to have a salutary effect on population health which would explain why health indicators such as infant mortality are better in countries that have been governed by pro-redistribution political parties."


Contact: Dr. Vicente Navarro. Department of Health Policy, Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Johns Hopkins University, 624 N. Broadway. 4th floor, Rm 448, Baltimore MD 21205. USA, T 410-955.3280. vnavarro@jhsph.edu and Department of Political and Social Science, Pompeu Fabra University, Trias Fargas 25-27, Barcelona, 08005 Spain. T 93-542-2210. vicenc.navarro@upf.edu

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