Resilient Wisconsin: Social Determinants of Health

What are social determinants of health?

Doctor performing a check up on a baby

Health is everywhere. In fact, nearly every aspect of the world around you relates to your health in big and small ways. Where you work and live, your relationships, and the institutions within your community—they all help shape your opportunities for a healthy life. 

The influential conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and learn are called social determinants of health. A safe neighborhood. Good schools. Access to healthy food close to home. Like risk and protective factors, the presence—or absence—of vital resources and secure environments helps explain why some people are healthier than others. They also show us why some populations and communities experience disproportionately poorer health outcomes and higher risks for suicidal behaviors, harmful substance use, chronic disease, adverse childhood experiences, and other challenges.

Social determinants can be grouped into five key areas

Take a closer look at the underlying issues and conditions that can affect the health of individuals and families, as well as entire populations and communities.

Family of four entering a home

Economic stability

Includes access to or a lack of employment opportunities or living wages, food security, safe and stable housing, and economic security.




Smiling people wearing caps and gowns


Includes the presence or lack of quality early childhood education and development resources, language and literacy, enrollment in higher education, and good high school graduation rates.




Crowd with some people with their hands up

Social and community context

Includes the presence or lack of civic participation and supportive and cohesive communities, discrimination and segregation, and proportionate incarceration rates.




Adult and a doctor in an exam room a doctor in an exam room

Health and health care

Includes access to or a lack of community-based primary and emergency health care services, and health literacy.




Vendor at a farmers market

Neighborhood and built environment

Includes the presence or lack of nearby sources of healthy and affordable foods, public transportation, crime prevention, green spaces, accommodations for people living with disabilities, clean air, clean water, affordable housing, good schools, and accessible workplaces.



Everyone deserves the opportunity for a healthy life

No one should be less healthy than their peers because of where they live, how much money they make, or the culture or community they were born into. Sadly, health disparities exist across racial and ethnic divides, and in communities as defined by gender, sexual orientation, age, disability status, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. But we can change that by addressing the root causes of health inequities. With policies and prevention efforts that improve the people’s social, economic, and environmental conditions, we can create lasting, large-scale change for Wisconsin’s people and communities.

Learn more

Want to learn more about social determinants of health or health equity? Check out these additional resources.

Get to know the influential elements of mental, physical, and behavioral health that help public health professionals and others understand and promote resilience in our communities and organizations, in our relationships, and within ourselves.

Last Revised: April 13, 2021