Social Determinants of Health

Population Health Managers have long known that the health of an individual is dependent on a complex variety of factors, not just genetics and lifestyle. Health can also be determined by the places and conditions where employees work and live. Poor social and environmental conditions can negatively affect the health outcomes of those employees. For example, unsafe neighborhoods, low income, poor access to healthcare, poor quality education and low literacy can affect the health and wellbeing of the employee population. These conditions are referred to as the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH). Healthy People 2020 defines SDoH as: conditions in the environment in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. The Kaiser Family Foundation has organized the SDoH around five key categories and their sub categories:

  1. Economic Stability: Employment, income, expenses, debt, medical bills, support
  1. Education: Literacy, language, early childhood education, vocational training, higher education
  1. Health and Health Care: Health coverage, provider availability, provider linguistic and cultural competency, quality of care
  1. Neighborhood and Built Environment: Housing, transportation, safety, parks, playgrounds, walkability, zip code
  1. Social and Community context: Social integration, support systems, community engagement, discrimination, stress

Understanding and addressing how these social determinants can affect the health outcomes of an employee population is imperative for an employer. Although employers may feel that they have no influence on the conditions and environments where their employees were born, live, learn or play, they have a substantial influence on the conditions and environments at the workplace. For example:

  • Employers can offer financial wellbeing resources to assist employees with economic instability and make sure that all employees earn a living wage. http://livingwage.mit.edu/
  • Employers can offer tuition reimbursement and allow employees travel time to attend evening classes.
  • Employers can provide affordable healthcare benefits to employees.
  • Employers can offer bus tickets and train vouchers for employees who use public transportation.
  • Employers can assist employees with food insecurity by directing them to appropriate resources or by providing meals or snacks at the workplace.
  • Employers can offer resources on stress management and access to appropriate care through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Many initiatives have been launched at the federal and state levels, but many challenges remain. Employers should proactively seek ways to decrease the burden of poor conditions in which their employees may work by assessing their current environment and needs of their employee population and commit to find ways to improve.

Resources:

https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-of-health

https://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/index.htm

 

Linkedin Facebook Twitter Email
,

About Diane Andrea

Diane is the Wellness Consultant for J.W. Terrill. Diane is a registered and licensed dietitian and certified health coach with over 20 years experience in the wellness field.

View all posts by Diane Andrea

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.