Public views on determinants of health, interventions to improve health, and priorities for government

WMJ. 2008 May;107(3):124-30.


Objective: There is increasing evidence about the importance of factors that impact health beyond health care and individual behavior, yet there is little public and policy discourse about these things in the United States. We surveyed Wisconsin adults to see what they think are the most important factors that affect health. We also examined which interventions they believe would improve health, and whether government should prioritize such interventions.

Methods: A phone survey of a random sample of 1459 Wisconsin adults was conducted between September 2006 and February 2007.

Results: The Wisconsin public believes that health practices, access to health care, and health insurance are the most important factors affecting health, and that health insurance is a high government priority. Other broader social and economic determinants of health, such as employment, social support, income, housing, and neighborhood factors are seen as less important to health. Although respondents believe that health practices are important to health, they are less likely to suggest that government prioritize improving individual health practices. Although the public believes the government should prioritize access to health care and health insurance, they are not as likely to support government implementing social or economic policies in order to improve health.

Conclusion: In light of research demonstrating the importance of social and economic determinants of health, and of ongoing public forums meant to raise awareness of these determinants of health, it will be important to track whether public opinion of Wisconsin adults changes over time to increase attention to the social and economic determinants of health and related policy initiatives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Priorities*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion*
  • Wisconsin