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The B List: Four fancy-schmancy phrases translated

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 09, 2013 - My colleagues and I were discussing the recently released brief from For the Sake of All, a Washington U, Saint Louis U collaborative. It’s the first in a series of reports on the economic, educational and health status of African Americans in St. Louis city and county.

I used the abbreviation “SES” and the group stared at me, glassy-eyed. When I explained that is an abbreviation for socio-economic status, I was accused of spending too much time around academics.

It got me thinking that every professional group has its own vocabulary, designed for shorthand among peers — and perhaps to create some exclusivity among the anointed.

Here are some nickel words to describe the quarter terms you’ll run across in the coming months as the Beacon reports on For the Sake of All:

1. Social determinants of health: It’s where you’re born, the neighborhood in which you grow up, where you live and work and age. Your health is affected by your neighborhood. Can you walk safely? Are there nearby grocery stores to buy fresh and nutritious food? Are there playgrounds nearby? Doctors? Good schools? These circumstances in which we live are affected by money, politics and national, sate and local policies.

Watch this video for an excellent explanation of the social determinants of health:  This is Bill

2. Health disparities: Gaps in health status, access and quality across groups of individuals compared by race, ethnicity, gender, age and income, for example. These differences are systematic and likely avoidable.

3. Mortality rate: The number of deaths at a specific time and place within a particular population. It is usually expressed per 1,000 or 100,000 individuals.

4. Fomite: An inanimate object, like a pen at the checkout counter in a store, which transmits germs from one individual to another. This has nothing to do with the WU/SLU study. However, it’s my favorite 25-cent public health vocabulary word. Use it and impress your friends.

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