I was particularly struck by this chart, which documents the difference in average lifespans in two neighborhoods near where my parents currently live - Washington DC and Montgomery County:
The World Health Organization (WHO) has carried out a three-year analysis of the "social determinants" of health.
The report concludes "social injustice is killing people on a grand scale".For instance, a boy living in the deprived Glasgow suburb of Calton will live on average 28 years less than a boy born in nearby affluent Lenzie.
The report also reminds us that a woman's chances of surviving childbirth are dramatically different depending on where she's living. "In Sweden, the risk of a woman dying during pregnancy and childbirth is one in 17,400, but in Afghanistan the odds are one in eight."
As we approach November's elections here in the States, I can't help but feel like the WHO report highlights what's at stake. The report's authors explain that:
"(The) toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and politics is, in large measure responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible."
The report calls for governments to consider how all their policies impact on health.
The report highlights education, affordable housing, management of access to unhealthy foods and social security protection as key.
It also said that governments should take action to ensure a living wage for workers, and working conditions that reduce work-related stress and ensure a healthy work-life balance.
All of this highlights the fact that our own health, and that of our neighbors, is at stake when we cast our ballots. If we vote for candidates who would keep working women and the elderly in a state of poverty for the convenience of big business, if we support politicians who are not committed to social justice, we are essentially decreasing our nation's vitality - dooming it to sickness and early deaths.
Yet, how do I talk to conservatives in my own family about the importance of providing education, affordable housing, and security to everyone? When my brother-in-law tells me that it is not our responsibility to help the less fortunate 'because they are the victims of their own bad choices,' how do I respond?