You’ve no doubt heard of the G20, or the “Group of 20,” the set of countries that meets to discuss international finance and economics. Before the holiday season, I went down under to Melbourne, Australia for the H20—H for health—an international health summit hosted by the World Medical Association.  This event put the spotlight on health issues prior to the G20 Leaders’ Summit, which immediately followed the H20 and was held in Australia as well.

Our message was a simple one: Health is the greatest social capital a nation can have. Without a healthy, productive citizenship, a country can’t be economically stable. Addressing the social determinants of health is crucial to building a strong economic foundation, and eliminating health disparities is something we physicians should continue to work toward.

Here in the United States, the AMA is tackling health care disparities in a number of ways, including incorporating diversity and cultural competency into physician training through our Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative. Making tomorrow’s physicians aware of the problems we face now will help us build a healthier nation.

Good health systems are a marker of a fair and just society, and many countries’ health sectors are top employers as well. In our country, physicians help boost the economy by contributing nearly 1 million jobs, $1.6 trillion in sales revenue, more than $775 billion in wages and benefits, and about $65 billion in state and local tax revenues. In every state, physicians do more than just support the health of their communities—they also play a vital role in the economy by supporting jobs, purchasing goods and generating tax revenue.

Every country in the world has concerns about the rising costs of health care. We know through partnerships and discussions like the ones we had at the H20 that the United States is not alone in its work to improve both the health of our patients and the health of our care systems.

Curbing some of these costs starts with preventing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, two of the nation’s most troubling chronic diseases. We want to prevent these conditions before they develop in patients, and we’re working on developing resources for physicians through our Improving Health Outcomes initiative.

As we move into 2015, it is my hope that we can continue to bridge the gap between our population and our economy by strengthening the health of our nation.

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