Social Determinants of Health

A Case for Health Equity

Efforts to improve health in the United States traditionally look at the health care system as the key driver for improving health and health outcomes. However, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, social and economic factors shape 80% of a person’s ability to engage in healthy behaviors, resulting in health disparities rooted in social and economic disadvantages (Issue 5, Feb. 2019).

Addressing social determinants of health (SDOH) is rooted in the Health Center Program. The first health center, established in 1965, proposed interventions to address poor health and extreme poverty by not only providing access to medical care, but also addressing root causes such as access to food, housing, clothing, water and sanitation, jobs, education, and transportation services.

In recent decades, growing health care costs and increased demand for services have forced many health centers to focus their efforts solely on medical care. Now with emerging evidence indicating that addressing SDOH can improve overall health and well-being, health centers are making attempts to return to those initial models.