I would like to start by distinguishing between two components of health: clinical health (also known as diagnosed health) and experienced health (also known as subjective health and usually measured as health satisfaction ). Experienced health is more relevant to people, while clinical health has been the area of policy-making. This makes sense since there is a correlation between experienced health and clinical health; however, the correlation is not perfect. There has been a lot of research on the social determinants of clinical health, but not so much research on the social determinants of experienced health.
In consequence, it is important to study the social factors that increase experienced health (people’s satisfaction with their health condition). Our research has found that social networks and, in special, family support are fundamental factors in increasing experienced health -given a clinical health status-. Several studies have also found that increasing people’s satisfaction with life contributes to raising clinical health.
Thus, I would recommend focussing PAHO’s attention to: social networks, to family support (availability of family support, free time to share with ill person, so on), and to all those social factors that contribute to raise people’s satisfaction with life. If you would like to have access to some relevant research on this regard please let me know,
Mariano Rojas FLACSO-Mexico