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Resilient Wisconsin: Social Determinants of Health

What are social determinants of health?

The environments and experiences in which people are born, grow, live, and work are all social determinants of health. A safe neighborhood. Good schools. Access to healthy food close to home. These are all things that can help explain why some people are healthier than others. They also show us why some populations and communities experience poorer health outcomes and are at higher risk for other health challenges. 

Social determinants can be grouped into five key areas

Take a closer look at the powerful factors that can affect everyone’s health.

Family of four entering a home

Financial stability

Includes access to or a lack of job opportunities, living wages, stable food supply, and safe and stable housing



Smiling people wearing caps and gowns


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



Crowd with some people with their hands up

Social and community environment

Includes the presence or lack of public participation, supportive and unified communities, discrimination and segregation, and incarceration rates



Adult and 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 knowledge or literacy


Vendor at a farmers market

Neighborhood and man-made environment

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



Everyone deserves the opportunity for a healthy life

Nobody’s health should be influenced by where they live, how much money they make, or the culture or community they were born into. Sadly, health disparities exist. Factors like race, sexual orientation, age, disability status, and more have been shown to play a role in people’s health. But we can change that. How? Through policy and prevention efforts. By addressing the root causes of health inequities, we can help improve people’s social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Help create change

This is how we can create lasting, large-scale change for Wisconsin’s people and communities.

Prevent bias
Racial bias and discrimination can play a major role across all key social determinants of health. For example, people of color often have less access to quality health care. This can mean a delay in treatment, leading to worse outcomes. By understanding bias, and how it affects certain races, we can take steps to ensure better health equity.

Increase affordability
Increasing affordability is another key area we can address across all social determinants of health. Take education as an example. Research shows that the higher a person’s level of education, the more likely they are to experience better health. So how can we ensure better health? By increasing access to affordable education.

Advance quality and safety
Advancing quality and safety across each social determinant of health is key to better health equity. This is especially important in health care. Healthy communities are the foundation of a thriving state. That means safe, quality health care must be available to everyone.

Last revised December 11, 2023