When you think of factors that influence your health, you probably think of eating well, staying active and seeing a doctor when sick. But there are actually many more factors that influence our health. Our health is greatly determined by the conditions in which we live. Health starts in homes, schools, workplaces and communities, and our overall health is greatly impacted by access to social and economic opportunities, such as the quality of schools, safety of workplaces and the availability of clean food and water.
The term “social determinants of health” describes the conditions into which people are born, grow, live and work. This includes aspects such as education, income, living environment, access to health care, available social support networks and much more. The chart below, courtesy of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, outlines various social determinants of health.
Additional Social Determinants of Health
In addition to the categories of economic stability, neighborhood and physical environment, education, food, community and social context, and health care system, there are a few more specific social determinants of health:
- Gender inequity
- Racial segregation
- Early childhood experiences and development
- Social support and community inclusivity
- Crime rates and exposure to violent behavior
- Access to safe drinking water, clean air, and toxin-free environments
- Recreational and leisure opportunities
Why the Social Determinants of Health Matter
Growing research shows that medical care accounts for only 10-20 percent of health outcomes, while 80-90 percent of outcomes are a result of environmental and social factors. By understanding the social determinants of health, policymakers and health care professionals can assess what’s needed most in a community and then take the proper measures to work towards a healthy population. Reducing health inequities, such as lack of access to health care, lack of education and lack of access to essential social services, results in positive health outcomes on both a community and individual level. Research has even shown that an individual’s medical expenses are greatly reduced when housing, transportation and food needs are met.
Prolonged exposure to a negative environment can have a significant impact on your health. For example, living in a community that lacks essential services and supports can lead to stress, which over time increases one’s chances of many health issues. These include heart disease, asthma, various cancers, obesity, diabetes, frequent headaches, depression and anxiety, digestive issues and accelerated aging. While stress management techniques can be very beneficial, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to be effective in a community that is scarce on essential resources.
How We Work to Improve Community Health
KVC West Virginia provides behavioral health services for people experiencing depression, anxiety, substance use disorders and other mental health needs. We provide this help in people’s homes and at other community locations, as opposed to requiring them to go to one of our offices. In-home therapy is statistically shown to be a more effective form of treatment because it also address the environment a person lives in. Click here to learn more.
Learn more about our organization here.