What if beneath the surface of human well-being lies an intricate web of invisible influencers? A hidden network of factors that have a significant impact on our health? We tend to put a lot of emphasis on medical treatments and healthcare systems, but could we be overlooking something crucial?

In this blog, we will look closer at the world of Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) and their importance in shaping our overall well-being. 

Understanding the impact of social determinants on health 

Social determinants of health go beyond medical care, encompassing the conditions in which we live, work, and grow. These non-medical factors, including our environment, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and cultural background, significantly impact our well-being. 

Recent studies reveal that social determinants determine around 40% of our health outcomes, including morbidity and mortality.

It’s time to acknowledge their impact and adopt a comprehensive approach to health that deals with these factors. Promoting healthier environments, tackling socioeconomic disparities, and embracing diversity can pave the way for a fairer and healthier future.

The intersection of social determinants and health 

In the intricate web of healthcare, understanding social determinants is critical to predicting adverse outcomes and unlocking improved patient health. It goes beyond the surface, shedding light on crucial aspects like high-risk pregnancies, early hospital readmissions, medication non-compliance, and vulnerability to chronic diseases. 

Our healthcare system usually deals with injuries or illnesses, but the real impact of social factors on our well-being begins much earlier and significantly affects our daily lives.

Let’s dive into this transformative connection and discover how a deeper understanding can pave the path toward better health outcomes.

A path to equity: Empowering clinicians to address social determinants

Addressing social determinants is paramount to achieving health equity, and healthcare systems must have effective strategies. Clinicians play a vital role in supporting patients facing social challenges, and their approach can significantly impact their well-being.

Physicians can provide invaluable support by actively inquiring about patients’ social history, offering guidance, and making referrals to local support services. Acting as a trusted resource throughout the process, they can connect patients with resources beyond the healthcare system, such as women’s groups, housing advocacy organisations, and employment agencies, through an approach known as social prescribing.

This transformative approach empowers clinicians to address social determinants head-on, fostering a holistic and comprehensive approach to patient care. By recognising and addressing these underlying factors, we can take significant steps toward achieving health equity for all.

Examples of social determinants 

Social determinants profoundly influence each individual’s health, shaping our well-being in apparent and hidden ways. Some factors present a clear-cut connection to poor health outcomes, while others have been established through epidemiological evidence, even if the underlying mechanisms are not immediately evident.

Let’s explore a range of examples that highlight the power of social determinants. Income and accumulated wealth, education (especially tertiary education), access to transportation and healthcare services, social and community support, housing stability, community safety, recreational opportunities, and even cultural factors such as racial segregation all play significant roles in shaping our health.

Consider this: Many primary care visits stem from stress caused by social factors like financial concerns, family responsibilities, and marital relationships. A promising solution emerges through integrated health data with intelligent tools to aid clinicians in understanding these complexities. 

By consolidating information such as utility bills, traffic tickets, mortgage certificates, judgments and liens, address changes, and educational attainment, we can create comprehensive social determinant-based risk scores that enhance our understanding of patient health.

In unraveling the intricate puzzle of health, it becomes increasingly clear that social determinants are not mere background noise but powerful influencers that shape our well-being. By delving deeper into their impact, we can pave the way for more effective interventions and a future where everyone has an equal opportunity for a healthier life.

How can Orion Health help?

Orion Health transforms healthcare through data-driven solutions. Our data aggregation and integration expertise empowers healthcare organisations to address social determinants of health. 

By consolidating diverse data sources, we comprehensively view each patient, revealing the connections between social factors and health outcomes. With intelligent assets and advanced analytics, we enable effective population health management, identifying vulnerable populations and implementing targeted interventions. Our commitment is to drive transformative change, striving for equitable access to quality healthcare and improved well-being.

Interested to know more about how Orion Health’s Orchestral Health Intelligence platform can help with Social Determinants of Health?

Conference Paper: Hyojun Park, A., Roubal A., Roubal, B., Rudolph R., Booske C November 2013 Relative contributions of health determinants on health outcomes at the county level Conference: 141st APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition 2013.

Galea, S., Tracy, M., Hoggatt, K. J., DiMaggio, C., & Karpati, A. (2011). Estimated deaths attributable to social factors in the United States. American journal of public health, 101(8), 1456-1465.