Factors that affect health are often described as either “proximal” (downstream or directly affecting health) or “distal” (upstream or indirectly affecting health). For example, income is thought of as distal (upstream) because it doesn’t directly affect health.
Housing significantly affects health. In our homes, we experience the intersection of many health-related factors, and when we spend so much time in this environment, the cumulative effects of where we live can have long-term health consequences.
Education is related to health. Better educated people tend to be healthier. Why? The pathways from education to health are varied and complex, as explained by Paula Braveman, one of the speakers at our Princeton meeting.
The causal pathways from social determinants of health to health outcomes can be numerous and complex. Though some factors (like smoking) are directly related to health, others (like education or income) relate to health in a variety of indirect ways.