Population health Forum logo
Population Health Forum
Advocating for Action Toward a Healthier Society

Actions to Take

1. Fight for JUSTICE to reduce the gap between rich and poor. It's better for health!

Being active as a public citizen is good for your health. Examples of health promoting activities involving justice issues include:

Get poor people out to vote. The USA has the lowest voter turnout of all democracies, and it is the poor and the young who don't vote. Some authorities feel the US situation is not an accident but was desiged into the constitution and continues to the present day. A society of non-voters is potentially more explosive than one in which most citizens regularly vote.

Center for Voting and Democracy Voter Turnout The Center is dedicated to fair elections where every vote counts and all voters are represented. As a catalyst for reform, we conduct research, analysis, education and advocacy to build understanding of and support for more democratic voting systems. We promote full representation as an alternative to winner-take-all elections and instant runoff voting as an alternative to plurality elections and traditional runoff elections.

International IDEA | Voter Turnout contains much information on voting by countries.

Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality has a very informative weekly newsletter. 

Just Health Action works to create awareness of these issues among various groups.  They develop curriculums, teach workshops and provide guidelines for speaking about these issues.  
The occupy movements that began in the fall of 2011 highlight the inequality with their 1% and 99% concepts. Support them in your community and extend their ideas to the links with health, something they are unaware of.

Champion progressive taxation.
Citizens for Tax Justice work toward:
• Fair taxes for middle and low-income families
• Requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share
• Closing corporate tax loopholes
• Adequately funding important government services
• Reducing the federal debt
• Taxation that minimizes distortion of economic markets

United for a Fair Economy raises awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart. They support and help build social movements for greater equality.

Rethink the corporate McGovernment system where corporations rule the world.
Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy. Corporations have the rights of citizens in perpetuity and have come to command huge power throughout the world. This clearly increases hierarchy and is bad for our health. POCLAD asks basic questions about how this came about and what can be done.

Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). The basic income guarantee (BIG) is the government insured guarantee that no citizen's income will fall below some minimal level for any reason. All citizens would receive a BIG without means test or work requirement. BIG is an efficient and effective solution to poverty that preserves individual autonomy and work incentives while simplifying government social policy. Some researchers estimate that a small BIG, sufficient to cut the poverty rate in half could be financed without an increase in taxes by redirecting funds from spending programs and taxes deductions aimed at maintaining incomes.

A basic income is an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement. It is a form of minimum income guarantee that differs from those that now exist in various
European countries in three important ways:
• It is being paid to individuals rather than households;
• It is paid irrespective of any income from other sources;
• It is paid without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job if offered.

Liberty and equality, efficiency and community, common ownership of the Earth and equal sharing in the benefits of technical progress, the flexibility of the labour market and the dignity of the poor, the fight against inhumane working conditions, against the desertification of the countryside and against interregional inequalities, the viability of cooperatives and the promotion of adult education, autonomy from bosses, husbands and bureaucrats, have all been invoked in its favour.

New America Foundation has a variety of strategies to address structural inequalities.


The US has a rather oppressive environment for early life. We are the only nation that hasn't ratified the UN Declaration of the Rights of a Child that resulted from the conference in New York in 1989 that represented the largest gathering of heads of state up to that time.  Raising a family is mostly a personal responsibility in the U.S. in contrast to most other rich nations where substantial support is provided.  Ways of becoming involved center around acting to promote true family values. This includes support for pregnancy, and for the first few years of life thereafter. We have no federal laws on the books for antenatal maternal or paternal leave from work. We require mothers to go out and work and not nurture their children, who then are put into daycare situations and studies show that this leads to later behavioral problems and compromised health.

The science behind the developmental origins of health and disease research affirms that early life lasts a lifetime.   Spending infancy in conditions of poverty compromises health and the ability to achieve in life ever after.  Many of our chronic diseases of aging, such as obesity, heart attacks, diabetes and hypertension have their origins in early life.  While medical care treats these conditions with maintenance medications, it cannot redress what happened early on.  

There are few easily accessible materials that summarize the importance of early life on adult health.  Most people consider the chronic diseases of aging resulting from not taking care of oneself in later years rather than being caused by conditions before one makes conscious decisions regarding health-related behaviors.   The first thousand days after conception are the most critical period for adult health.  Poor conditions during this period does not doom a person forever but makes it more challenging to stay healthy.

Some sources include:
David Barker does research on the modern development of the importance of the period in utero. This BBC documentary presents the key concepts.

Another research perspective is the Primal Period which refers to the fetal period and the first year after

Origins : how the nine months before birth shape the rest of our lives, by Annie Murphy Paul (Free Press, 2012). A readable book on the first nine months.

The National Center for Children in Poverty  at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health has much relevant information.

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University highlights the science.

A U.S. documentary on early child development is in production.

The importance of attachment parenting is become increasingly recognized.

The Children's Defense Fund. The mission of the Children's Defense Fund is to Leave No Child Behind and to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. CDF provides a strong, effective voice for all the children of America, who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for themselves. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investment before they get sick or into trouble, drop out of school, or suffer family breakdown.

The Innocenti Research Center at UNICEF publishes a series of report cards on comparisons of child issues in rich countries.

3. Promote FRIENDSHIPS and SOCIAL CONNECTIONS within your familiy and community.

The presence of beneficial social factors are better at reducing mortality than smoking, excessive drinking, exercise , air pollution and treatment for high blood pressure, for example. This is not to suggest that you engage in those behaviors but that you don't neglect the importance of family, friendships, and community factors that enhance health. These are likely most important in early life.

Know and share with your neighbors. Communities where people trust and help one another tend to be healthier than places with less cooperation. Promote active communities with high participation and civic involvement among everyone.

The links between trust and hierarchy show that working for economic and social justice by the earlier steps will increase social cohesion and improve health. Spirituality is one way, for religious communities in the U.S. may have better health through social connections. Getting to know your neighbors and working together on community projects is another way that has health implications.

There are a number of groups studying these connections and there are commercial web sites and vendors selling various products.

4. Work to increase WOMEN’s status and opportunities in society.

Women's health is threatened in the US because of the increasing expectations placed on them without sufficient support provided to do everything.  Life expectancy is actually declining for women in a  large fraction of U.S. counties.

Where women’s status is higher, everyone’s health is better. Many organizations work to improve the status of women world wide. Coalitions of women working for social gains benefit all of us. Union membership is one way for women to improve their status.

Coalition of Labor Union Women. Its members are on the frontline, empowering working women to become leaders in their unions and encouraging them to make a difference on the job and, most importantly, in their own lives. Its values are solidarity, involvement, dignity and justice.

National Organization for Women. Since its founding in 1966, NOW's goal has been to take action to bring about equality for all women. NOW works to eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace, schools, the justice system, and all other sectors of society; secure abortion, birth control and reproductive rights for all women; end all forms of violence against women; eradicate racism, sexism and homophobia; and promote equality and justice in our society.

Moms Rising emphasizes that support for motherhood is crucial for everyone's health. 

National Partnership for women & families highlights the crucial issues.  

5. Strive to end stressful, low-paid WORK.

Having a sense of control in the workplace and at home decreases stress and is good for your health. America's best kept secret is that workers internationally are the largest group of people in the world, and when organized, can wield incredible power. A sense of control and a decent workplace go along with the right to have a union and a commitment to end discrimination at work. Unionization in the U.S. has declined greatly. We must improve working conditions for everyone.

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

International Labor Organization (U.N. agency). Adopted in 1998, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work is an expression of commitment by governments, employers' and workers' organizations to uphold basic human values—values that are vital to our social and economic lives:

  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
  • The elimination of forced and compulsory labour
  • The abolition of child labour
  • The elimination of discrimination in the workplace

Social protection provided by governments during times of economic hardship have been very important for health. The current crisis in Europe stems from governments no longer doing it to the extent they had before. The U.S. government lags before most efforts there and this needs to change.

Economic Opportunity Institute works in Washington State to provide paid work leave as well as on other policy issues.


We are a group of academics, citizens, students, and activities across several nations that work to build support for changing the rules of society so that better health comes naturally. Join out list and come to our meetings, and consider organizing chapters in your communities.

To join our listserv send a message to listproc@u.washington.edu.
Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message type: subscribe pophealth YOUR NAME (NOT your e-mail address).

©2003 Population Health Forum | Contact Us | University of Washington | School of Public Health