Public Policy

The World Health Organization works to affect public health policy and practices on a global scale. In the United States, public health policy is created by local, state, and federal politicians. Many organizations influence the policies as they are created. Some organiza- tions or groups that influence public health policy in this country include the following:

• Health insurers • Lobbyists

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Risk Potential

The data on infant mortality and maternal race and education in Figure 1.3 also illustrates the concept of relative risk, or risk potential. Relative risk is the potential of imperfect health in groups exposed to risk factors, such as drug use, in rela- tion to the potential of imperfect health in groups not exposed to the same risk factors.

The concept of relative risk embodies the differential vulnerability hypothesis, which theorizes that some people have more adverse reactions than others to negative life events. Studies of the differential vulnerability hypoth- esis have found that members of low socioeco- nomic status groups experience higher levels of anxiety, stress, and emotional duress when faced with negative events and information than do persons of higher socioeconomic status. Con- sidering the factors that contribute to health and well-being (social status, social capital, and human capital), we can ascertain that a deficiency in these factors is a likely cause of the higher levels of mental duress in stressful situations experienced by members of low socioeconomic groups. For example, a wealthy person who receives a speeding ticket is less likely to be concerned about how he or she will pay the ticket than a person on a fixed income. For the latter, paying a ticket strains an already tight budget that must pay for food and shelter. Without reasonable levels of social status, social capital, and human capital, where is the extra money to come from?


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