What are Social Determinants of Health?

What are Social Determinants of Health?

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Social Determinants of Health are the conditions in our environment – places where we live, learn, work, and play – that affect a wide range of health and life risks and outcomes. Obviously, these conditions differ among communities. For example, people in the inner city don’t get the fresh air that people living in the mountains take for granted. And there are many other critical factors in our environment that matter to our quality of life.   

There is a movement in the U.S. healthcare community to address health equity issues and the clear ties between social factors and behavioral and physical health. Called Healthy People 2030, this movement seeks to “create social, physical, and economic environments that promote attaining the full potential for health and well-being for all.” The movement to address health equity focuses on 18 separate issues:

  • Access to Healthy Foods
  • Access to Health Services
  • Access to Primary Healthcare
  • Civic Participation (how our community addresses inequities)
  • Crime and Violence
  • Discrimination
  • Early Childhood Development and Education
  • High School Graduation
  • Enrollment in Higher Education
  • Employment
  • Environmental Conditions
  • Food Insecurity
  • Health Literacy (knowledge of healthcare)
  • Housing Instability
  • Incarceration
  • Language and Literacy
  • Poverty
  • Quality of Housing
  • Social Cohesion 

How is your community doing in regards to these issues? To be able to make a difference, we have to know the current situation and work together toward improvement. There are several ways that you can check on how social determinants of health are affecting your community:

  • Look up your city on the U.S. Census Quick Facts website 
  • Check if your community has a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA)
  • Find your county’s needs assessment  

Joining a community task force to work to improve local Social Determinants of Health is a good first step toward reducing health inequity where you live.

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