Posted By Arnav Mathur On November 3, 2021

Social Determinants of Health: Two Perspectives

social determinants of health perspectives

A huge topic in healthcare for years now has been Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). COVID-19 has brought the topic to the forefront again and since the term was first coined, two perspectives on Social Determinants of Health have been formed. Doctor Colleen Bridger (founder & CEO of Colleen Bridger Consulting) did a webinar with Patagonia Health to talk about Social Determinants of Health, what it means today, and how it is an important topic when talking about public health. She outlined the two perspectives on SDOH that have emerged.

Healthy People 2030

The first perspective on Social Determinants of Health is called Healthy People 2030. It is the fifth and current iteration of the Healthy People Initiative (which was developed in the United States by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion). Healthy People 2030 says that SDOH are conditions in an environment where people are living, working, playing, etc., that affect a range of health, functioning, and quality of life outcomes and risks. There are five components of SDOH for Healthy People 2030, and they each have their own goals. 

  • Economic Stability -to help people earn steady incomes that allow them to meet their health needs. 
  • Education Access & Quality– to increase educational opportunities & help children/adolescents do well in school. 
  • Neighborhood & Built Environment – to create neighborhoods & environments that promote health and safety. 
  • Healthcare Access & Quality – to increase access to comprehensive, high quality health care services. 
  • Social & Community Context -to increase social & community support. 

World Health Organization

The second perspective on Social Determinants of Health comes from the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO talks about how those circumstances (SDOH) are shaped by the distribution of power, money, and resources at all levels. WHO also says that SDOH are responsible for health inequalities. WHO has 3 domains. 

  • Improving daily living conditions 
  • Tackling inequitable distribution of power, money & resources
  • Measuring & understanding the problem & assessing the impact of action 

WHO also points out that health injustice exists due to discrimination in many forms (racial, gender, etc.). Dr. Bridger says that health justice is possible, however, if we effectively lead population-based mitigation strategies that dismantle the systems that created the currently powerful. Health injustice affects people in several ways. Some people are not given the same kind of proper healthcare that other people are given. Some don’t even have access to clean, safe drinking water. A big part of it is that minorities are more set up to have health injustices due to the history of minorities being unfairly discriminated against in terms of receiving medical attention or the proper treatment. 

Healthcare experts are still working on how to solve the issues caused by Social Determinants of Health, as a component of “whole person care”. One way public health, behavioral health and other clinical care providers can support whole person care is by connecting with Health Information Exchanges (HIE) or other health information sharing systems like Carequality and sharing Social Determinants of Health reporting information from your Electronic Health Record (EHR). Programs that support SDOH problems can view population management features and reach out to individuals to get them additional care they need outside of clinical care. While there is still a long way to go to providing whole person care and resolving all of the Social Determinants of Health challenges for patients, there are ways that technology companies and EHRs are looking to help. Be sure to get an EHR that supports whole person care and is constantly innovating to meet the needs of healthcare challenges today. 

To watch Dr. Bridger’s webinar on Social Determinants of Health, visit: 

To view our other Healthcare IT webinars, visit: 

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About Arnav Mathur

Arnav Mathur is a Marketing Associate at Patagonia Health. He conducts market research regarding electronic health records and reaches out to clinics across the United States to see what Patagonia Health can provide for them. He also writes content for public and behavioral health while combining his business skill sets and customer focus to help push healthcare IT forward.