Public health research shows that addressing the social determinants of health can have a major impact on improving population health and decreasing health disparities. National initiatives are underway to research the roles health care organizations can play in these efforts. Tax-exempt hospitals, given federal requirements around community health needs assessments and implementation strategies, are viewed as important partners.
What are the Social Determinants of Health?
The World Health Organization defines the social determinants of health as "the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems."
Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) highlights the importance of addressing the social determinants of health by including "Create social and physical environments that promote good health for all" as one of the four overarching goals for the decade. HP2020 also developed a "place-based" organizing framework, reflecting five (5) key areas of social determinants of health:
These five key areas (determinants) include:
- Economic Stability — Poverty, Employment, Food Security, Housing Stability
- Education — High School Graduation, Enrollment in Higher Education, Language and Literacy, Early Childhood Education and Development
- Social and Community Context — Social Cohesion, Civic Participation, Discrimination, Incarceration
- Health and Health Care — Access to Health Care, Access to Primary Care, Health Literacy
- Neighborhood and Built Environment — Access to Healthy Foods, Quality of Housing, Crime and Violence, Environmental Conditions