The environment a person lives in, their socioeconomic status, lifestyle, wealth and cultural/ethnic background all affect that person’s health status in far more significant ways than was previously understood. Across many studies, authors consistently agree that social determinants of health (SDOH) affect up to 80% of an individual’s health outcomes.

To illustrate how social factors may be integrated with a patient’s standard clinical care, consider the key step of choosing the right clinical interventions. Clinician knowledge of the patient’s SDOH factors can allow for earlier, more targeted interventions when a successful outcome is more likely. If a patient has one or more chronic conditions combined with some social problems, say unstable housing and poverty, the chances of them needing a prolonged expensive hospital stay are significantly increased. Early intervention guided by an understanding of all the relevant factors impacting our patients’ health—both clinical and non-clinical—is therefore essential.