APH 2003, 61, 15-31:

Socio-economic status, nutrition and health.

S. De Henauw, C. Matthys, G. De Backer

Keywords: -

Public health research in almost all European countries convincingly shows that socially deprived subgroups of the population experience higher morbidity and mortality rates as compared to their socio-econo-mically more successful counterparts in society.
The mechanisms behind this phenomenon are considered to be very complex, poorly understood and potentially fluctuating across cultures.
The complexity of the problem is - amongst others - related to the fact that socio-economic status is not a straightforwardly measurable human "trait", but rather a multi-factorial "condition" which is embedded in a broad tissue of environmental, material and personal characteristics, which mutually interact in a complex way and which often reinforce each other through self-perpetuating trickledown spirals, not only on individual level and on "social layer" level, but also on intergenerational level.
One of the factors in that tissue, that undoubtedly plays an important role in the overall picture of health inequalities, is nutrition.
In order to understand the potential role of nutrition in health inequalities and to delineate the potential for interventions, one has to try and understand the broad context of the dynamics behind health inequalities, the main driving pathways and the ways in which they potentially interact.

In this paper, some of the main axes from the overall health inequalities framework are outlined and discussed.