Power, Politics, and Health: A New Public Health Practice Targeting the Root Causes of Health Equity

Matern Child Health J. 2016 Aug;20(8):1753-8. doi: 10.1007/s10995-016-1980-6.


Purpose Understanding the WHY, WHAT, and HOW of place-based work in maternal and child health (MCH) is critical to examining the components of the environment that shape health opportunity through the relationship between life expectancy and neighborhood residence. Description On September 18, 2014, during the CityMatCH Leadership and MCH Epidemiology Conference, Dr. Anthony Iton provided the Keynote Address focused on the root causes of health inequities. Assessment The address focused on issues of equity in California and initiatives designed to mitigate and prevent disparities, including the Bay Area Regional Health Equities Initiative framework. Dr. Iton presented information on how the framework translated into investment strategies and a policy and systems change approach to place-based work. Conclusion The field of MCH, because of its focus on supporting health during critical periods of development, is poised to play a significant role in reducing health inequities. Recognizing that human health suffers when low income communities are passive, disenfranchised and disorganized, in order to change this status quo, understanding that human capital is the greatest asset is the urgent challenge to the field of MCH.

Keywords: Collective impact; Community organizing; Health equity; Life course; Life expectancy; Place-based interventions; Policy and systems change; Power; Social determinants of health.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Health Equity*
  • Health Status
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Politics*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Public Health Practice*
  • Social Determinants of Health