Social Determinants of Health: A Very Brief Overview

There has been a lot of talk about social determinants of health in the public health world. Social determinants of health are the factors in a person’s life (apart from medical care) that affect their health and well being. If you think that’s a mouth full, just wait until you see all the factors that are included. We’re doing a shallow dive into this topic in this particular blog and providing a brief overview. Don’t worry, we’ll go deeper later on. This is just to whet your appetites. 

 Social determinants of health fall into the following five categories: 

  1. Economic stability is the relationship between a person’s financial resources and their health. A person’s income, their cost of living, their socioeconomic status, housing stability and food security all play a role in their health. 
  2. Education access and quality is the relationship between education and health and well being. From early childhood education and development to highschool graduation and higher education and even language and literacy, access to quality education or lack of access to quality of education can affect a person’s health. 
  3. Health care access and quality is the relationship between a person’s access to and understanding of health services. Health literacy, access to health care, and access to health insurance all fall into this category.  
  4. Neighborhood and built environment is the relationship between where a person lives and their health and well being. The quality of one’s housing, access to transportation, and access to safe routes to bike and walk fall into this category. But other factors such as availability of healthy foods, air and water quality, and even neighborhood crime and violence impact a person’s health and are part of the neighborhood and built environment. 
  5. Social and community context is a broad category that covers factors such as cohesion with the community, civic participation, work place conditions, discrimination, and incarcaration. This category really looks at the characteristics of the context in which people live, learn, work, and play and how those factors relate to a person’s health. 

NCAH is committed to putting equity at the center of our work. We are going to dive deeper into social determinants of health in the coming weeks as part of our commitment to centering equity. Stay tuned!