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Books help identify, address barriers to equity in health; Essentials series titles provide insights.

PEOPLE THROUGHOUT the U.S. face enormous inequities, creating barriers to their health and well-being. Two new books explore ways to identify and address the health disparities.

"Essentials of Health Justice: A Primer," co-published through APHA Press and Jones & Bartlett Learning, focuses on the justice issues underlying health outcomes. APHA member Joel Teitelbaum, JD, LLM, associate professor of health policy at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, and APHA member Elizabeth Tobin-Tyler, JD, MA, assistant professor at Alpert Medical School at Brown University, examine achieving health equity with the help of law and policy.

The U.S. is one of the few developed countries that does not offer health care and health insurance as a citizen right, the authors write.

"We have a 'negative' Constitution, focused on the ways the government cannot interfere with people's rights," Tyler told The Nation's Health. "But that also means there is no generalized right for health care."

This ingrained position --of having no obligation to ensure that Americans have health care and insurance--explains the spirited political debates over the Affordable Care Act, which seeks to insure all Americans. But what, the authors ask, explains the struggles of some neighborhoods populated mostly by people of color?

Tyler and Teitelbaum point to social and structural racism in policies and the justice system that segregated minority populations from whites in some regions. Segregation has negative effects on food nutrition, education, employment opportunities, public safety, affordable housing, neighborhood violence--all of which affect health, Tyler said.

These days, more public health advocates see the importance of understanding and changing laws and policies to bring about health equity, the authors write. As such, law, policy and social justice now make up 30% of the exam for the certified in public health credential. "Essentials of Health Justice" is meant to build students' knowledge in these areas and help them advocate for better policies and services.

The second textbook is "Essentials of Health Behavior, Third Edition," by APHA member Mark Edberg, PhD, MA, associate professor at the Milken Institute of Public Health at the George Washington University. Co-published by Jones & Bartlett Learning and APHA Press, the textbook introduces students to the complex relationship between behavior and health.

Edberg said people's behavior toward health is not reducible to knowing risk factors of, say, obesity and inactivity.

"It is really necessary to step back and assess what is really going on behind any kind of health risk behavior phenomenon," Edberg told The Nation's Health.

Besides updating the textbook's data, the new edition also adds a chapter on epigenetics, or changes to how genes are expressed, which can influence people's physiology and behavior. Environmental factors such as air pollution and childhood stress can change gene expression, Edberg said.

For more information on the books, visit www.aphabookstore.org.

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Author:Barna, Mark
Publication:The Nation's Health
Date:Jun 1, 2019
Words:469
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