Monday, March 24, 2008

Rising inequality in health

The NY Times reported this Sunday on trends in health inequalities as revealed by county-level mortality data. The universal pattern that seems to emerge from several different recent papers is that inequalities in life expectancy have risen since 1980.

Nancy Krieger and colleagues say this is new since 1980 and may reflect the redirection of policy under Reagan. Part of the problem concerns interpreting measures of mortality. Proportional differences in mortality rates roughly translate into additive differences in life expectancy, which we tend to perceive as static health inequality. Under this definition, Krieger et al. reveal no change in inequality prior to 1980.