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Policies as Tools for Research and Translation in Social Epidemiology 

Policies as Tools for Research and Translation in Social Epidemiology
Policies as Tools for Research and Translation in Social Epidemiology

M. Maria Glymour

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date: 27 February 2021

Changes in social policies play two overlapping but distinct roles in social epidemiology. First, such changes are an important mechanism for translating evidence on social inequalities into action to improve population health. Many policies that are not primarily oriented toward health are likely to profoundly affect health. Social epidemiology should evaluate how these policies, regulating both “upstream” factors such as socioeconomic status and critical resources further “downstream,” such as food supplies, safe environments, and healthy housing, influence health. A second important use of policy changes is to evaluate causal hypotheses. Policy changes may provide plausible natural experiments to evaluate whether associations between social factors and health are likely to be causal. The chapter also argues for future policy research in social epidemiology, including analyses of costs, use of predictive models, and greater adoption of natural experiments and related research designs.

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