Social determinants of health are conditions that may be affected directly or indirectly by the economy and standard of living of a group of people in a society. Healthcare is intensely one of the cardinal issues affecting lives in various communities globally. The continuum of social determinants of health is hinged on governance in most cases.
To clearly define it, social determinants of health are the physical, social, and economic conditions which people are born into. In most cases, people grow, live, and become employed or self-employed in these conditions until they age.
The structures of these societies are dependent on the circulation of resources, power, money, and influence at both local and national levels. With these underlying conditions, there are several relative questions that easily follow, such as: is race a social determinant of health? Is poverty a social determinant of health? Most importantly how do you address social determinants of health?
The concept of health begins from the smallest unit: in our homes. This extends to our schools, places of work, and the society in general. On a basic level, we understand that proper healthcare, not smoking or using drugs, immunization, frequent medical tests, adequate hygiene, and a good diet contributes profoundly to our overall health. On a larger scale, our health is also affected by essentials such as access to resources, economic opportunities, and standard of living.
Many regions around the world are greatly affected by the negatives of resources mismanagement and economic turmoil, which seeps into the fabric of the society creating a struggle that leads to the development of certain cultural and socio-economic dispensation.
Why are the social determinants of health important? Addressing these issues, such as inequality, poverty, stigma, racism, unequal healthcare access, poor education, and others greatly aids the development of an egalitarian society measured with levels of achievements and strides in achieving a better society.
There is a great disparity in the understanding of how a group of people experiences a place and the reality and impact of a place on the population. There are several social and physical determinants of health commonly known. Here are examples of social determinants of health:
- Social support
- Exposure to violence, crime, social unrest
- Availability of basic amenities and resources
- Access to quality education, employment, and economic opportunities
- Healthcare availability
- Public safety and security
- Availability of community resources for recreation and socialization
- Transportation structures
- Societal norms such as racism, distrust of current government, incessant discrimination, gender crisis, etc
- Socioeconomic problems such as poverty, low standard of living
- Language and illiteracy
- Access to media, technologies, and other means of communication
A better understanding of these determinants and healthcare conditions proposes that there are also physical conditions that affect health in communities. These include:
- Aesthetics such as roads, light, parks, and man-made recreational settings
- Buildings and structures
- Exposure to substances that may be toxic, either industrial or due to modernization
- Physical impediments such as disabilities and discrimination
- Presence of nature, such as trees, green land, climate, animals and others
Globalization – integration of local production in trade and development of trade policies to support the economy.
Employment circumstance – The threat of unemployment and measures to create adequate employment tailored to regions for growth and development.
Gender equity and the role of women – Devising policies, actionable statements, and mechanisms to improve the participation of women in various areas of the economy, without gender bias.
Social exclusion – Minorities are often excluded in developmental issues such as governance and this can greatly affect their participation in civic duties. Building relationships with minorities improve engagement in social life and provide a more progressive outlook
Public health systems – This initiative governs the Implementation of health-based programs that will improve access to healthcare services especially for an economically disadvantaged and low-income population
Evidence-based methodologies – use of the database, key point indicators, and other forms of measurement tools to provide evidence of successful policies and interventions
Child development programs – early healthcare opportunities provided to young children are essential for shaping their development and creativity.
There are numerous determinants of social determinants. So, what is the most important social determinant of health? Some people are of the opinion that “income” is the most important social determinant of health while others believe that governance plays a more significant role.
The establishment of policies, support plans, and creating positive influences as well as implementing empowerment programs will enable a more vibrant economy, creating a healthier working population.