Why is that person healthier than that person?: the roles of acculturation and population health

Why are some people healthier than others? Some determinants lie within socio-economics and other health disparities. Current population health research is focused on the association among race, ethnicity, gender, finances, geography, and even now the theory of acculturation. Acculturation, from a health perspective, is when immigrants come to the United States and their health begins to deteriorate at a faster rate than their U.S. born racial and ethnic counterparts over a certain period of time. This issue of acculturation has been seen in various metabolic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, etc. So why does this happen? Social stress for immigrants in a new environment? Lower income per household than in their previous country? Lack of access to decent healthcare? Lack of access to resources for a healthy diet? The socio-economic reasons and health disparities behind it are infinite. The key issue to keep in mind when looking at illness is to look at the illness as a whole and what contributes to it, not just the illness itself. That is why it also so important to acknowledge the population you are dealing with when treating a patient because there are so many other factors at play that are determinants of health. This concept is surprisingly not new. Although the “population health” term was coined in the 1980’s, Hippocrates was thinking and talking about it in Ancient Greece. In On Airs, Waters, and Places, Hippocrates clearly associated the relationship between environment and illness, and how this affects the population. Essentially, it is important to know your population when diagnosing the illness and identifying the health determinants as Hippocrates did. The theory of acculturation is a new and popular trend in research because it is a new way to think about population health and why socio-economics and health disparities play a role in illness. These ideas and questions can ultimately provide some insight into the inequalities of health, but also make us realize that there are extensive possibilities as to why these inequalities exist in the first place.

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