Social Determinants of Health

Saturday, November 16, 2019

How much of our health and well-being can we control? It turns out to be a large portion. At least where we have some control. The chart to the right shows that for 70% of the factors, we can exercise some control. Behavior accounts for the largest piece at 40%. We can contribute in small ways to our social and environmental factors and healthcare itself.

We obviously have more control over our health behaviors. Research suggests that behaviors, such as smoking, diet, and exercise are the most important determinants of premature death. We can influence these behaviors through wellness features or disease management initiatives.

Read two of my previous blogs to learn more:

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation – Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity

Social Determinants of Health

Social determinants take a more macro or environmental look at what shapes individuals’ health. Data analytics looks at these factors when mining data to identify cost drivers and cost influencers.

Examples of social determinants include:

  • Availability of resources to meet daily needs:
  • Safe housing
  • Local food markets
  • Access to educational opportunities
  • Access to economic opportunities
  • Access to job opportunities
  • Access to healthcare services
  • Quality of education and job training
  • Availability of community-based resources:
  • Supporting community living
  • Opportunities for recreational and leisure-time activities
  • Transportation options
  • Public safety
  • Social support
  • Social norms and attitudes:
  • Discrimination
  • Racism
  • Distrust of government
  • Exposure to crime, violence, and social disorder:
  • Presence of trash
  • Lack of cooperation in a community
  • Socioeconomic conditions:
  • Concentrated poverty and the stressful conditions that accompany it
  • Residential segregation
  • Language/literacy
  • Access to mass media and emerging technologies:
  • Cell phones
  • Internet
  • Social media
  • Culture

Examples of physical determinants include:

  • Natural environment:
  • Green space
  • Weather
  • Built environment:
  • Buildings
  • Sidewalks
  • Bike lanes
  • Roads
  • Worksites, schools, and recreational settings
  • Housing and community design
  • Exposure to toxic substances and other physical hazards
  • Physical barriers, especially for people with disabilities
  • Aesthetic elements:
  • Good lighting
  • Trees
  • Benches

These factors also contribute to stress.  Evidence shows that stress has a huge impact on health.

Read my previous blog, The Toll of Financial Stress, to learn more.

A startling fact is zip code (where a person lives) has a higher predictive value toward your longevity and health than genetics (CDC)! These social determinants are more prevalent in some communities versus others, where smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, and alcohol abuse remain, and contribute directly to chronic illnesses.

Many factors influence an individual’s health. But by controlling bad habits, we can start to make an impact and live healthier lives.

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