This week at HIMSS21, we’re talking about social determinants of health – what they are and how they can inform our work towards equitable health outcomes for all. 

If you are not familiar with this term – or you’re a little unsure of what it includes – this blog will help you get up to speed. 

Recognized by the CDC and WHO, social determinants of health (often abbreviated as SDOH) are conditions in the places in which people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life risks and outcomes.  

Instead of focusing on individual determinants, such as genetic indicators and behavioral risk factors, the SDOH approach instead takes a holistic look at the wide range of influences that can positively or negatively impact individuals’ chances at a healthy lifestyle. 

5 Key Social Determinants of Health

According to the CDC, there are 5 key social determinants of health – let’s briefly take a look at each. 

Healthcare Access and Quality 

Access to quality healthcare is a crucial determinant of one’s health, and yet in the U.S. there remains much health inequity. In its new report comparing the healthcare performance of the 11 wealthiest nations, Commonwealth Fund found that despite spending a bigger GDP slice on healthcare compared with its peers, the U.S. ranks last overall in access to care, administrative efficiency, equity, and health outcomes. From disparate levels of healthcare literacy to varying degrees of insurance coverage, there are a multitude of factors within the healthcare system that can result in negative health outcomes for those with fewer opportunities and resources. 

And with the exponential increase in telehealth and telemedicine, virtual care remains inaccessible to the approximately 19 million American individuals without reliable, high-speed broadband Internet connections in their homes. 

Education Access and Quality 

Education is strongly correlated with health. While causal effects can be difficult to isolate in statistical studies, the CDC reports that people with at least some amount of college education have mortality rates less than half of individuals without any college education. From childhood learning and development to graduation rates and enrollment in higher education or career training, the level of education available to students has a substantial impact on their future success and well-being. 

A crucial component of student success is equipping them with the online tools that they need to keep up with their peers in an increasingly digital world. Factors like race, income level, and geographical location all impact the likelihood one has to be able to access online opportunities – for example, Common Sense Media’s Third Digital Divide Report found that while Black, Latinx, and Native American students make up about 40% of the K-12 student population in the U.S., they represent about 55% of all disconnected students. 

Social and Community Context 

One’s social backdrop is another indicator of one’s health outcomes. What does the community look like? What level of support does one receive from one’s social connections? What do civic participation and workplace conditions look like? What are the rates of crime and incarceration? The connectedness of one’s community informs the ways in which members live, interact with others, and move about in the world. 

Economic Stability 

Without a doubt, the financial resources one has available impacts health. The greater one’s financial resources, the more likely they are to have stability in the vital areas of food, housing, and transportation, as well as access to high-quality education, personal assistance, and medical care. 

Neighborhood and Built Environment 

Finally, the physical infrastructure in which one lives also contributes to their health outcomes. Environmental concerns, access to transportation, neighborhood crime and violence rates, water quality, and availability of healthy foods all contribute to one’s chances at a healthful life. 

Connections as Opportunities

As I’m sure you have realized, these pillars of SDOH are interrelated in nature. Achieving a higher level of health in one area enables health in another – for example, receiving a higher income can lead to moving to a neighborhood in a location with better educational options for one’s school-age children – in turn affording them with more opportunities down the road. 

While the interconnectedness of SDOH factors means that improving one’s health is not always so simple, it also means that increasing one of these areas can have a ripple effect on their overall health. In short, increased equity in one area can enable better health outcomes in multiple areas.  

It’s clear that there is much work to be done before we are able to realize equitable health outcomes for all, but we believe that we can work together to make meaningful steps towards this goal. 

Kajeet: Connections for Good

Since its founding in 2003, Kajeet has been mission-focused on enabling connections for good. Those connections began in the realm of education and have grown to include nearly 3,000 customers across healthcare, utilities, municipalities, public safety, and many other industries.  

If you or your organization is looking for a partner in managed, optimized wireless connectivity, Kajeet can help – reach out to us today to get started.