Health starts in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods and communities. We know that taking care of ourselves by eating well and staying active, not smoking, getting the recommended immunizations and screening tests and seeing a doctor when sick all influence our health. Health is also determined, in part, by access to social and economic opportunities; the resources and supports available in homes, neighborhoods and communities; the quality of schooling; the safety of workplaces; the cleanliness of water, food and air; and the nature of social interactions and relationships. The conditions in which we live explain in part why some Americans are healthier than others and why Americans, in general, are not as healthy as they could be.
On June 25, Rev Cycle Intelligence reported that these socioeconomic factors contribute to about 40 percent of a person’s health, while only 2 percent tied to their access to care and quality of care, according to a report issued by the American Hospital Association (AHA).
The AHA said many providers are not able to address housing, economic stability, education, food security and other social determinants.
Barriers include not having enough appointment time and lack of compensation for care extending beyond clinician walls. Providers will need to start caring for more than a patient’s physical health to truly reduce healthcare costs, said Kaveh Safavi, MD, JD, Senior Managing Director at Accenture. “Context is actually very interesting because what we’ve discovered is that listening to a conversation and how somebody talks about things like how much money they have and whether they have food, matter a lot in their care,” he said.
All Americans deserve an equal opportunity to make the choices that lead to good health. However, to ensure that all Americans have that opportunity, advances are needed not only in healthcare, but also in education, childcare, housing, business, law, media, community planning, transportation and agriculture.
Additional resources on social determinants of health are listed below:
- Healthy People 2020: An Opportunity to Address the Societal Determinants of Health in the United States. July 26, 2010
- World Health Organization, Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health
- National Partnership for Action: HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 2011; and The National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity, 2011
- The National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy. The National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness, June 2011