What are social determinants of health?
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.
Includes access to or a lack of employment opportunities or living wages, food security, safe and stable housing, and economic security.
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.
Social and community context
Includes the presence or lack of civic participation and supportive and cohesive communities, discrimination and segregation, and proportionate incarceration rates.
Health and health care
Includes access to or a lack of community-based primary and emergency health care services, and health literacy.
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.
Want to learn more about social determinants of health or health equity? Check out these additional resources.
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Disparities
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Social Determinants of Health: Know What Affects Health
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Achieving Health Equity
- American Public Health Association: Health Equity
- Association of State and Territorial Health Officials: Health Equity
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Think Cultural Health
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