Health policy approaches to population health: The limits of medicalization

Document Type

Response or Comment

Publication Date



Health Affairs


volume 26, Issue 5

Inclusive Pages



Health Status Disparities; Health Care Disparities; Social Welfare; Sociology, Medical--trends; Vulnerable Populations--classification; Health Care Costs


Because of a strong tendency to "medicalize" health status problems and to assume that their primary solution involves medical care, policymakers often focus on increased financial and geographic access to personal health services in policies aimed at populations that are vulnerable to poor health. This approach has produced real public health gains, but it has neglected key social and economic causes of health vulnerability and disparities. Although access to care is a necessary component of population health, concerted policy action in income security, education, housing, nutrition/food security, and the environment is also critical in efforts to improve health among socially disadvantaged populations.


Comment on

Early-life conditions and mechanisms of population health vulnerabilities. [Health Aff (Millwood). 2007]