Social determinants of health are economic and social conditions
That influences the health of people and communities. These conditions are shaped by the amount of money, power, and resources that people have, all of which are influenced by policy choices.
Social determinants of health affect factors that are related to health outcomes.
Factors related to health outcomes include:
- How a person develops during the first few years of life (early childhood development).
- How much education a person obtains.
- Being able to get and keep a job.
- What kind of work a person does.
- Having food or being able to get food (food security).
- Having access to health services and the quality of those services.
- Housing status.
- How much money a person earns.
- Discrimination and social support.
What are the determinants of health and how are they related to social determinants of health?
Determinants of health are factors that contribute to a person’s current state of health.
These factors may be biological, socioeconomic, psychosocial, behavioral, or social in
nature. Scientists generally recognize five determinants of health of a population:
- Genes and biology: for example, sex and age.
- Health behaviors: for example, alcohol use, injection drug use (needles), unprotected sex, and smoking.
- Social environment or social characteristics: for example, discrimination, income, and gender.
- Physical environment or total ecology: for example, where a person lives and crowding conditions.
- Health services or medical care: for example, access to quality health care and having or not having insurance.
Other factors that could be included are culture, social status, and healthy child development.
Why is addressing the role of social determinants of health important?
Addressing the social determinants of health is a primary approach to achieving health equity. Health equity is “when everyone has the opportunity to ‘attain their full health potential’ and no one is ‘disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of their social position or other socially determined circumstance‘”.
Health equity has also been defined as “the absence of systematic disparities in health between and within social groups that have different levels of underlying social advantages or disadvantages—that is, different positions in a social hierarchy“.
Social determinants of health such as poverty, unequal access to health care, lack of education, stigma, and racism are underlying, contributing factors of health inequities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is committed to achieving improvements in people’s lives by reducing health inequities.
Health organizations, institutions, and education programs are encouraged to look beyond behavioral factors and address underlying factors related to social determinants of health.