Social Determinants of Health
Social determinants of health (SDH) refer to the social and environmental factors that contribute to or undermine the health of individuals, families, and communities. They include social and economic factors such as education, income, and housing. In addition, the physical environment, neighborhood and occupation can also play a role in the health of individuals and communities.
A growing body of research links socioeconomic factors with a range of health outcomes. It is important to understand the linkages between social factors and health. The United States has some of the highest levels of health disadvantage in the world. This is especially true for children.
Social disadvantages can accumulate over the life span. For example, a child born to parents without a high school diploma is more likely to live in a poor and unsafe environment. Furthermore, the lack of access to healthy foods can lower a person's lifespan.
Several government initiatives are designed to address the social needs of low-income populations. These efforts involve community-based programs, state and federal multipayer initiatives, and managed care plans. Some initiatives also seek to increase focus on health in non-health sectors.
Many of these initiatives reflect a broader shift toward care integration and payments that are based on value, rather than just coverage. But these efforts do not address the full range of social determinants that influence health.
One of the key issues in health policy today is how to better address the wide range of social determinants that impact health. Identifying these factors and addressing them can improve health and reduce health inequities.