Health Affairs December 12, 2019
Shannon Brownlee, Vikas Saini, Benjamin F. Miller

Can the United States bring down overall health care costs by spending more on education, social services, and the other so-called social determinants of health? Substantial research has shown a clear link between social factors and health status, and there is some evidence that spending on these factors is also linked to improved health. For example, in the United States, Elizabeth H. Bradley and colleagues have shown a strong connection between state-level spending on social factors and such health outcomes as adult obesity, asthma, heart attacks, and type 2 diabetes.

These and other findings have led several authors to suggest that we can lower health care spending by “investing in the social safety net.” People would be healthier, goes the thinking, and would have less need for medical services.