Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος, Herakleitos; c. 535 BC – 475 BC), a Greek philosopher, is known for having said: character is destiny (otherwise said A man’s character is his fate.)
The two main reasons why the derived adage “geography is destiny” applies to medicine are first that exposure to diseases risk factors varies from one region to another in a same country with the same health services and health insurance coverage :
and second that the pattern of care chosen by practitioners to treat the population for a given condition also greatly varies depending of the place of abode (still at a same health services and health insurance coverage level):
“A study of the geographic distribution in elementary school children discloses no correlation between Tonsillectomy and any other factor, such as overcrowding, poverty, bad housing, or climate. In fact it defies any explanation, save that of variation of medical opinion on the indications for operation.”
There is tremendous unexplained variation in rates of surgical procedures from hospital catchment area to hospital catchment area, and region to region that cannot be explained by epidemiologic factors. For example, colleagues and I discovered in 1992 (see Spine, 1992) that the 15 fold difference in surgical procedures on the spine in Washington State was inexplicable by almost all population and diagnostic factors.
From the citations quoted above we could even go further in completing the adage by saying: in medicine geography is not only destiny it is also the caregiver.