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Austerity measures have led to significant health declines


Stanford Health Policy’s Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine, argues in this commentary in Social Science & Medicine that austerity measures adopted after the global financial crisis have led to significant health declines among those whose leaders don’t consider them worthy of economic aid.

“The human cost of austerity should not be underestimated. Health decline has been a ubiquitous outcome of austerity measures in recent years,” Basu and his co-authors write as an introduction to the new issue devoted entirely to papers that look at the outcome of austerity measures. “This relates both to direct cuts on heath services and to cuts in other public sectors, including housing, transportation, education, and retirement and pensions.”

But Basu, an epidemiologist and primary care physician, emphasizes that researchers like him — who are responsible for coming up with alternatives to austerity measures — have not done the best job.

“It has been ‘easy,’ in a statistical sense, to correlate austerity with horrendous economic and health outcomes. What is far harder is to clearly specify a path forward to preserve and improve social support structures, if an austerity narrative is exposed as political chicanery and thereby overcome.”

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