The fact that disadvantaged people generally die younger and suffer more disease than those with more resources is gaining ground as a major policy concern in the United States. Yet we know little about how public values inform public opinion about policy interventions to address these disparities. This article presents findings from an exploratory study of the public's values and priorities as they relate to social inequalities in health. Forty-three subjects were presented with a scenario depicting health inequalities by social class and were given the opportunity to alter the distribution of health outcomes. Participants' responses fell into one of three distributive preferences: (1) prioritize the disadvantaged, (2) equalize health outcomes between advantaged and disadvantaged groups, and (3) equalize health resources between advantaged and disadvantaged groups. These equality preferences were reflected in participants' responses to a second, more complex scenario in which trade-offs with other health-related values — maximizing health and prioritizing the sickest — were introduced. In most cases, participants moderated their distributive preferences to accommodate these other health goals, particularly to prioritize the allocation of resources to the very sick regardless of their socioeconomic status.

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