The Intersection of Politics, Poverty, and Pop Health

Jefferson College of Population Health Dean David Nash, MD, explains the facts and why they matter.

In most population health conversations, politics are never too far from the surface. That’s inevitable: The field looks at people in geographic or demographic aggregates to better understand their wellness and how to keep them healthy.

Stakeholders may not need to share the same opinions on policy solutions, but David Nash, MD, told Healthcare Analytics News™ that everyone must, at least, share the same facts.

“And the real facts are that in our great country, we know that zip code is destiny,” he said. “In our country, poverty and income disparity are the key drivers of health or the lack of health. This is something that we're doing battle with every day.”

More so than even health metrics like blood pressure, blood a1c, or cholesterol levels, Nash said an accurate projection of one’s lifespan can be made just based off of their zip code and credit score. That’s alarming, he said, and uncommon in the Western world.

In light of these problems, he said there’s a certain tone-deafness at the policy level that might need to be addressed. He wants his institution, the College of Population Health out of Thomas Jefferson University, to help drive the conversation away from sweeping, impractical goals and into a researched, granular push that can make real change.

“I think we're a voice to inform the policy community and elected representatives that hey, maybe announcing a moonshot to cure cancer in a town where 1 out of 4 people still smoke cigarettes is not such a great policy idea,” He said. “Hey, a town that has the country's 2 largest private medical schools is in a county that ranks dead last with regard to the health of its population.”