Social Determinants of Health


There is a misconception about health. Health is not defined by access to the healthcare system and medical professionals. Even though access to healthcare is critical component, it only accounts for 20% for an individual’s health. There are many others factors that shape health in a more profound way known as the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH).

The World Health Organization defines SDOH as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.” These include housing, education, income, healthcare, public safety, and food access. Race, culture, and gender identity are forces in determining how these social determinants are distributed.  

These conditions can also be understood in an upstream to downstream model. A society interacts under paradigms of race, economic status, gender, and sexual orientation.  When taken to public institutions, these paradigms frame policies, programs, and practices. These upstream social and institutional inequities define the living conditions of each group of people, the physical environment in which they interact, the services they can access, the amount of risk their occupations have, and the social cohesion they experience. The living conditions help shape many downstream behaviors, as physical activity, nutrition, sexual behaviors, violence, smoking, and substance abuse. Finally, all these factors lead to health outcomes, which could be negative, such as chronic and communicable diseases, injury, and early mortality and life expectancy.

SDOH Graphic

SDOH Graphic from BFHD