Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP Report Urges Policymakers To Consider Health Impact of Policies Before They Act
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP Report Urges Policymakers To Consider Health Impact of Policies Before They Act

Washington, D.C. — The key to good health is based on more than just the quality of health care. Health and life expectancy are shaped much more by our living conditions—factors such as education, income, jobs, housing, neighborhoods, and the environment.

A new report from the Center for American Progress argues that decisions government officials and other policymakers reach on issues such as wages and benefits, taxes, education, affordable housing, rapid transit, or climate policies have ripple effects that affect public health. Smart policies can help save lives, prevent disease, and lower health costs.

The report urges policymakers to consider the health implications of their decisions before they act. It outlines the kinds of tools that officials can use, such as health rankings, indexes that identify communities with the greatest health needs, and modeling tools that can forecast the impact of health policies.

The report provides two examples—minimum wage and climate policy—to show the technical considerations that go into the measurement of health impact.

“Policymakers should consider the health consequences of policy options before they act and promote policies that help save lives and that offer the greatest health benefits,” said Steven Woolf, author of the report, senior fellow at CAP, and professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University. “We need to recognize the value of modeling tools that can forecast the impact of policy options and invest in the research and data gathering needed to make these models reliable in assessing health outcomes.”

The report makes several recommendations for advancing policies that promote health:

  • Be evidence-based—consult the science before setting health or “non-health” policies.
  • Use decision tools to forecast outcomes and track results.
  • Connect the dots between “non-health” policies and health outcomes.
  • Expand and act on research on the health impacts of climate policy.
  • Invest in research on the health impacts of socioeconomic policies.

Read the report: “Measuring Health Impact: Data Tools to Predict the Health Outcomes of Social, Economic, and Environmental Policies” by Steven Woolf

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org.