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What Are Social Determinants of Health?

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies, racism, climate change, and political systems. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has adopted this SDOH definition from the World Health Organization.

Social determinants of health can include housing, transportation, education, access to food, social isolation and more - basically, anything that compromises where a client lives and works.

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Access to Quality & Emergency Health Care

Many people face barriers that prevent or limit access to needed health care services, which may increase the risk of poor health outcomes and health disparities.


Income Level

A patient’s zip code might be more indicative of their health than her genetic code, but a patient’s census tract can help address her social determinants of health. Zip code data is more predictive of an individual's health than her genetic code, but zip code data might not be the best source for addressing social determinants of health.


Food Access

Food insecurity impacts both short- and long-term health outcomes, including a greater risk of diabetes and hypertension, higher risk of hospitalization in children, and excess weight gain in women who are pregnant. This can be caused by challenges with transportation, low-income levels, low-educational achievement, and limited access to healthy food options.

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