Portrait of poor mature woman indoors at home, poverty concept

With more focus on the SDoH, public health organizations and their partners can take action to improve the conditions in people’s environments.

The social determinants of health (SDoH) are an individual’s personal circumstances that impact their health, well-being, and quality-of-life risks. They include political, socioeconomic, and cultural factors, along with how easily someone can access healthcare, education, a safe place to live, and nutritious food.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the SDoH as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.”

Specifically, the SDoH describe the conditions in the place where a person or patient is or was born, lives, and works, including factors such as whether a patient is unemployed, how they worship, and how they age. They’re made up of a large range of factors that can impact the health and quality of life of a person, in particular if they live in under-served communities.

When we discuss applying these SDoH to a patient’s clinical profile, we acknowledge that these factors can directly a patient’s well-being, in positive and negative ways. For example, a neighborhood may have mass transit that makes it easy to get around and cuts down on pollution. But it may also lack grocery stores where people can buy healthy foods (ICD-10-CM code Z59.48). Or a patient may live in an area that lacks access to community health clinics or discounted pharmacies for access to necessary medications, because the patient cannot afford their prescriptions (Z91.120).

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