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Research on the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed some previously concealed links between underlying health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease and COVID-19 fatalities. This raises questions about the importance of healthy diets and lifestyles for the survivability of COVID-19 infections and possibly other infectious diseases. We statistically examine the connections between social determinants of health, reported health outcomes, and COVID-19 survivability using available data from over 3000 counties across the United States. Our study shows that preexisting conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease reduce the observed survivability of COVID-19 prior to the broad availability of vaccines. Furthermore, we test several of the social determinants of health identified in the literature and find them to be statistically correlated with negative health outcomes with the expected sign. For example, improved food security and better access to exercise correlate with lower observed diabetes rates and improved cardiovascular health. Our findings also indicate the positive impact of food assistance programs like the so-called food stamps program of the United States Department of Agriculture, however, some of our findings differ between rural and urban counties across the United States. Based on our findings, we estimate that twenty-two-thousand (22,000) lives could have been saved in 2020 if residents in all U.S. counties were as healthy as those in the healthiest counties found in our sample. We further estimate that reducing food insecurity, and improving access to exercise could have prevented ten-thousand-eight-hundred (10,800) fatalities attributed to COVID-19 in 2020.
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