How do you know if your healthcare services are as effective as they could be? After investing in the best resources and staff and becoming an expert in your field, you’d like to think that you would be set up to deliver the highest quality care possible. The reality, however, is that too many people experience social factors that also play into their overall health. These factors, known as social determinants of health, must be addressed as well.
To truly provide the best possible care, healthcare must transcend the boundaries of a traditional medical environment and work to understand and address these social determinants of health.
The long-term factors that contribute to the state of people’s health have to do with their physical and social environments. Basic human factors actually play a significant role in promoting, preventing, and reducing disease.
So, what are the social determinants of health, and how can healthcare workers incorporate them into their programs? This is what we’ll discuss in today’s post.
The 10 social determinants of health
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we need to be focusing on ten main social determinants of health that contribute to overall human health and wellness. To help your patients achieve the best health possible, it’s important to not only know these ten social determinants but to work to address them in their care programs. The ten social determinants of health are as follows:
1. The social gradient
The WHO lists this factor as the single most important in determining people’s health and well-being. It refers to the collective socioeconomic determinants of health—such as income, social position, education, and place of residence.
Excessive psychological stress, like fear and worry, are known to take a significant toll on physical health.
3. Early life
Experiencing a good education and a supportive environment early on in a person’s life has a big impact on lifelong health.
4. Social exclusion
Psychosocial factors—such as a sense of belonging and social interaction—are healthy traits. On the other hand, a lack thereof can result in rather negative effects.
Having safe, meaningful work is another psychosocial factor that is beneficial to a person’s health. Work is directly related to income, the feeling of having a place in society, self-worth, having a purpose, and other socioeconomic determinants of health.
Without reliable means of livelihood, necessities such as food, shelter, clean water, and healthcare cannot be secured. Aside from the direct monetary pressures, not having a job can get to someone in the deepest parts of their mind—as we visited in the previous point—and cause stress or even depression.
7. Social support
Social support includes the depth and richness of people’s social networks. Social support has been found to correlate with higher levels of happiness (and thereby health) throughout a lifespan. It can do a lot by way of heightening a person’s quality of life.
Substance misuse and dependence increase the risk of developing diseases, hindering relationships, having money troubles, and more.
People’s food choices affect their health. Reliable access to quality, healthy nourishment—including clean water and a variety of produce—contributes to a healthy lifestyle.
In developed economies, transportation as one of the determinants of health usually centers around the use of public transit. Public transit increases physical activity, reduces air pollution, and allows people the mobility to access different social services that they might otherwise have had to miss.
How to address the 10 social determinants of health
When promoting health and well-being, it’s important to focus on addressing the issues that are most relevant to each individual. For instance, changing lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, or smoking habits may be a low priority for someone who is struggling to survive financially or experiencing housing insecurity.
Addressing social determinants of health should be a top priority for healthcare teams, especially when treating the most vulnerable populations or those with chronic illnesses. Healthcare teams can address the social determinants of health by following these three steps:
Healthcare teams can assess their patients’ social determinants of health by asking questions about their lifestyles and not just their symptoms. This way, healthcare teams can assess the presence of socioeconomic and behavioral determinants of health and factor them into the overall treatment they provide.
Studies show a strong correlation between the incidences of depression and lack of social support.1 For those who don’t have a strong social support network, care teams can make a huge impact by providing access to resources that aren’t strictly medical. They can deliver a higher quality of care by offering informational support—such as advice, guidance, and other information—and establishing a network of trusted programs like meals on wheels, job boards, and other social services. By referring patients to these services, you’re taking a more holistic approach to care.
There is no good substitute for staff members who are educated on the impact of the social determinants of health, have referral options prepared in advance, and care to really get to know their patients. Staff members who take time getting to know their patients tend to provide better experiences and ultimately get better results. Making connections is important in true care.
Address your patients’ social determinants of health with software
We want healthcare teams to have meaningful relationships with their patients, so we created a tool that empowers organizations to build them in a more convenient and efficient way.
While it is great to ask healthcare teams to address the social determinants of their patients’ health as part of their healthcare plans, the reality is that many healthcare workers are dealing with too many other priorities.
That’s where a Care Management tool can make all the difference. Welkin is a resource that helps healthcare organizations expand the reach of their care programs, minimize admin tasks, and strengthen patient relationships. It provides industry-standard assessment tools to help healthcare workers identify what could be holding patients back from achieving healthy lifestyles. Welkin helps your team follow the story of each patient and is an ideal solution for keeping track of social determinant risk factors.
Don’t wait—read more about how Welkin is helping healthcare teams build meaningful relationships with their patients now.
1. Grav S, Hellzèn O, Romild U, Stordal E. Association between social support and depression in the general population: the HUNT study, a cross-sectional survey. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2011;21(1-2):111-120. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2011.03868.x.