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Although there is a large literature examining the relationship between a wide range of political economy exposures and health outcomes, the extent to which the different aspects of political economy influence health, and through which mechanisms and in what contexts, is only partially understood. The areas in which there are few high-quality studies are also unclear. To systematically review the literature describing the impact of political economy on population health. We undertook a systematic review of reviews, searching MEDLINE, Embase, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, ProQuest Public Health, Sociological Abstracts, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, EconLit, SocINDEX, Web of Science, and the gray literature via Google Scholar. We included studies that were a review of the literature. Relevant exposures were differences or changes in policy, law, or rules; economic conditions; institutions or social structures; or politics, power, or conflict. Relevant outcomes were any overall measure of population health such as self-assessed health, mortality, life expectancy, survival, morbidity, well-being, illness, ill health, and life span. Two authors independently reviewed all citations for relevance. We undertook critical appraisal of all included reviews by using modified Assessing the Methodological Quality of Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR) criteria and then synthesized narratively giving greater weight to the higher-quality reviews. From 4912 citations, we included 58 reviews. Both the quality of the reviews and the underlying studies within the reviews were variable. Social democratic welfare states, higher public spending, fair trade policies, extensions to compulsory education provision, microfinance initiatives in low-income countries, health and safety policy, improved access to health care, and high-quality affordable housing have positive impacts on population health. Neoliberal restructuring seems to be associated with increased health inequalities and higher income inequality with lower self-rated health and higher mortality. Politics, economics, and public policy are important determinants of population health. Countries with social democratic regimes, higher public spending, and lower income inequalities have populations with better health. There are substantial gaps in the synthesized evidence on the relationship between political economy and health, and there is a need for higher-quality reviews and empirical studies in this area. However, there is sufficient evidence in this review, if applied through policy and practice, to have marked beneficial health impacts. Policymakers should be aware that social democratic welfare state types, countries that spend more on public services, and countries with lower income inequalities have better self-rated health and lower mortality. Research funders and researchers should be aware that there remain substantial gaps in the available evidence base. One such area concerns the interrelationship between governance, polities, power, macroeconomic policy, public policy, and population health, including how these aspects of political economy generate social class processes and forms of discrimination that have a differential impact across social groups. This includes the influence of patterns of ownership (of land and capital) and tax policies. For some areas, there are many lower-quality reviews, which leave uncertainties in the relationship between political economy and population health, and a high-quality review is needed. There are also areas in which the available reviews have identified primary research gaps such as the impact of changes to housing policy, availability, and tenure.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: American journal of public health
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An article or book published after examination of published material on a subject. It may be comprehensive to various degrees and the time range of material scrutinized may be broad or narrow, but the reviews most often desired are reviews of the current literature. The textual material examined may be equally broad and can encompass, in medicine specifically, clinical material as well as experimental research or case reports. State-of-the-art reviews tend to address more current matters. A review of the literature must be differentiated from HISTORICAL ARTICLE on the same subject, but a review of historical literature is also within the scope of this publication type.
Combination of procedures, methods, and tools by which a policy, program, or project may be judged as to its potential effects on the health of a population, and the distribution of those effects within the population.
Published materials which provide an examination of recent or current literature. Review articles can cover a wide range of subject matter at various levels of completeness and comprehensiveness based on analyses of literature that may include research findings. The review may reflect the state of the art. It also includes reviews as a literary form.
A systematic collection of factual data pertaining to health and disease in a human population within a given geographic area.
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