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Secular Trends in Physiological Capital: Implications for Equity in Health Care

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  • Robert W. Fogel

Abstract

Over the past three centuries there has been a rapid accumulation of physiological capital in OECD countries. Enhanced physiological capital is tied to long-term reduction in environmental hazards and to the conquest of chronic malnutrition. Data on heights and birth weights suggests that physiological capital has become more equally distributed, thereby reducing socioeconomic disparities in the burden of disease. Implications for health care policy are: (1) enhanced physiological capital has done more to reduce inequities in health status than has wider access to health care; (2) the main contribution of more advanced medical treatment so far has been to retard depreciation in individuals' physiological capital; (3) prenatal and early childhood care and environmental issues are key for interventions aimed at enhancing physiological capital and at affecting its rate of depreciation; (4) lifestyle change is the most important issue affecting health equity in rich countries; and (5) greater access to clinical care should be promoted through aggressive outreach, since expanded insurance coverage by itself is inadequate.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert W. Fogel, 2003. "Secular Trends in Physiological Capital: Implications for Equity in Health Care," NBER Working Papers 9771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9771
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9771.pdf
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    1. Dora Costa, 2000. "Understanding the twentieth-century decline in chronic conditions among older men," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(1), pages 53-72, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Cookson & Carol Proppper & Miqdad Asaria & Rosalind Raine, 2016. "Socioeconomic inequalities in health care in England," Working Papers 129cherp, Centre for Health Economics, University of York.
    2. Stolpe, Michael, 2003. "Ressourcen und Ergebnisse der globalen Gesundheitsökonomie: Einführung und Überblick," Kiel Working Papers 1177, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    3. Francesco Scalone, 2014. "Effects of nutritional stress and socio-economic status on maternal mortality in six German villages, 1766-1863," Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 68(2), pages 217-236, July.
    4. Robin Pope, 2009. "Risk Starvation Contributes to Dementias and Depressions: Whiffs of Danger Are the Antidote," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse9_2009, University of Bonn, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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