On Monday, Sept. 19, Professor Dean Robinson presented “Why Political Inequality Makes Us Sick,” the first Pizza & Prof event of the year. Robinson is an associate professor of political science and was recently named the Terrence Murray Commonwealth Honors College Professor.
During his lecture to honors students, Robinson explained that although the United States spends a lot of money on health care, statistics such as life expectancy and death rates indicate that the U.S. underperforms when compared to peer nations.
“It has everything to do with politics,” he said, adding that the overall health of a nation depends not on how much money is spent, but on distribution and equality.
In the U.S. today, economic inequality resembles the 1920’s more than the 1940’s, Robinson said. He emphasized that economic and social inequalities affect health in both material and psychosocial ways. Material factors such as access to medical care affect health, but so do psychosocial factors including racism, poverty, and discrimination. Over time, these stressors can lead to negative health outcomes. Robinson explained that many of these factors are rooted in policy.
He presented a definition of health that included health care, personal behavior, living and working conditions, social and economic opportunities, and importantly, politics and policy. “Whether health care is a right or a commodity is ultimately a political decision,” he said.