A new issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation looks at the social determinants of health and health outcomes.
The issue brief “Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity” reports that
Social determinants have a significant impact on health outcomes. Social determinants of health are “the structural determinants and conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” They include factors like socioeconomic status, education, the physical environment, employment, and social support networks, as well as access to health care (Figure 2). Based on a meta-analysis of nearly 50 studies, researchers found that social factors, including education, racial segregation, social supports, and poverty accounted for over a third of total deaths in the United States in a year. In the United States, the likelihood of premature death increases as income goes down. Similarly, lower education levels are directly correlated with lower income, higher likelihood of smoking, and shorter life expectancy. Children born to parents who have not completed high school are more likely to live in an environment that poses barriers to health. Their neighborhoods are more likely to be unsafe, have exposed garbage or litter, and have poor or dilapidated housing and vandalism. They also are less likely to have sidewalks, parks or playgrounds, recreation centers, or a library.
The issue brief also looks at different steps that are being pursued to address such challenges through the State Innovation Models Initiative (SIM), state Medicaid programs, community health centers, health insurers, local groups, and more.
The Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania (SNAP) has long maintained that the patients it serves are fundamentally more challenging to treat than those served by the typical community hospital because of the very factors identified in this study.
To learn more, find the Kaiser Foundation issue brief here.