Black children walking in their neighborhood.

Social determinants of health: Measuring what matters

The pandemic shed light on the importance of addressing health equity in a variety of ways.

By David Nash, MedPage Today

Since the early 2000s, global health experts have recognized what we know as “social determinants of health” (SDOH) and understood the critical role they play in the health and wellbeing of populations. Collectively, SDOH is a broad range of economic and social conditions – adequate housing and nutrition, access to education, employment, and healthcare services, etc. – that have a profound influence on individual and group differences in health status. Although gradual steps have been taken to address SDOH, it took the COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic individuals and low-income communities to reveal the full extent of inequality in the U.S. healthcare system.

What approaches do we have in place to address SDOH today and well beyond the COVID pandemic? For its part, the public health sector has been actively involved in promoting the inclusion of SDOH. The CDC has developed SDOH measures; for instance, its Prevention Status Reports (PSRs), a performance measurement system for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, examine the extent to which states are using evidence-based policies and practices, including SDOH, to address the nation’s most important health concerns. PSRs can be used to assess a state’s status and identify areas for improvement. And at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Minority Health’s Division of Policy and Data is developing health policies and initiatives that are designed to address the elimination of health disparities and advance health equity. Read more …