Our lives and our health are shaped by social, environmental, and economic factors, both apparent and invisible.
These social determinants of health, or social and economic drivers of health, are the conditions that affect our health and quality of life in the places we live, learn, work, and play.
A person’s zip code should not determine one’s quality of life — but it does because social and political determinants of health often determine the living conditions of one’s community. Social determinants of health often stem directly from laws, policies, and practices that discriminate against people because of their race, income, immigration status, gender identity, age, or abilities.
Whether a community has access to health care facilities, primary care, and affordable health insurance are all drivers of health, but access to health care services and programs are far from the only factors that promote health and well-being.
For example, whether you can afford to buy a home in your own neighborhood is a determinant of health — compounded by historical discriminatory practices of redlining, segregation, and environmental racism, which determined who could purchase a home and where it could be located.
If your community has safe water to drink, reliable public transportation, access to fresh and healthy foods, and an affordable cost of living — your well-being is directly impacted. Employment, incarceration, and poverty rates are other major social and economic drivers of health.
It is no surprise, then, that addressing social and economic drivers of health can improve people’s lives and their communities’ well-being. But these are also an essential part of advancing health equity.
Community Catalyst helps works with communities — including health care advocates, social service organizations, advocacy organizations, faith organizations, business leaders, policymakers, and others — to improve policymaking that addresses social and economic drivers of health.
We champion community-led ideas at the local, state, and national level, such as increased investments in social determinants of health, as a way to meet the health needs of people most hurt by our health system today.