Much research has been conducted to learn why some population groups are healthier than others, and the implications are numerous and complex. However, one correlation is consistent: socioeconomic status and health are closely aligned. The higher the income and education level, the healthier the individual, family, or community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us “…the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play” affect health as directly as access to care does. In fact, when coupled with the physical environment, social and economic factors could be more important to health outcomes than healthy behaviors and regular clinical care. Unhealthy housing or diet, unemployment, food insecurity, pollution, and subsequent chronic stress can all derive from one’s education and income level.

From elementary school students to new professionals, Lifespan invests significant funding, staff time, and training to provide career exposure, coaching, and learning experiences. Nearly 20 initiatives, such as Lifespan’s mentoring and youth employment programs, are intended to mitigate the effects of social determinants on health. They not only educate young people about healthy behaviors but also provide examples of the ways in which a young person can find a path to improved income and thus a healthier life situation in general. These programs imbue a sense of possibility and responsibility as well as job skills.

The Year-Up program this year worked with more than 60 interns from the neighborhoods surrounding Rhode Island Hospital, young adults who have talent and motivation but have lacked opportunity. Most of them were hired by Lifespan upon completing the program.

As these initiatives raise the economic status of young people who live in poverty, they simultaneously strengthen our work force and benefit the State of Rhode Island by creating jobs and adding to income tax coffers. Most importantly, the programs improve the health and well-being of populations across our service areas. Although not as immediately visible as our clinical programs, Lifespan’s support of the above initiatives is a critical and vital part of our overall mission: Delivering health with care.

Timothy J. Babineau, MD

Timothy J. Babineau, MD

Prior to his appointment as Lifespan’s president and chief executive officer, Timothy Babineau, MD served as president and chief executive officer of Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital. Before coming to Rhode Island in 2008, he was the senior vice president and chief medical officer for the University of Maryland Medical Center and School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. Before the 2005 appointment at the University of Maryland, Dr. Babineau held numerous administrative positions, including vice chairman of the division of surgery, surgical residency program director and director of the center for minimally invasive surgery at Boston Medical Center and surgeon-in-chief and medical director for the Boston Medical Center Surgical Associates at Quincy Medical Center. He has been a trustee for the University of Massachusetts and a member of its Audit and Finance Committee.