The Role of Social Determinants in Achieving Health Equity — Karen Walker Johnson

Talking Trends
3 min readApr 27, 2023
Photo by the National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

The ongoing debate surrounding the influence of “nature vs. nurture” on health outcomes has shed light that Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) have a more significant effect than the individual’s genetics. SDoH refer to the conditions under which people live and work, including the economic and political systems in their regions. Among the most critical SDoH that influence health are access to healthcare, education, employment opportunities, housing, and social support. These factors have a pivotal role in creating and eradicating health inequities, making it crucial to identify and address them in communities. Although addressing SDoH is just one step toward achieving health equity, it remains one of the most critical.

For individuals living in poverty, the likelihood of experiencing chronic diseases, mental health issues, and premature mortality is significantly higher than for those with higher incomes. Access to proper medical care can also be a challenge, compounding these risks. Environmental factors such as inadequate housing, air pollution, and limited access to healthy food and recreational spaces can further exacerbate health problems. For example, residents of neighborhoods with these challenges are more likely to develop conditions like asthma, heart disease, and obesity. These inequities highlight the need for systemic changes to address the underlying social and economic factors.

Acknowledging and addressing racial and ethnic biases, misinformation, and discrimination is crucial in the provision of quality healthcare. It is imperative that we boost culturally sensitive and competent care and strive to eliminate health disparities that exist for certain populations, particularly those from racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as individuals residing in rural areas. We need to implement policies that promote social justice and reduce inequality, as well as ensure that our healthcare providers are equipped with proper training to serve their specific communities.

It is also important to address SDoH on an individual level. This can include providing education and resources to individuals and families on healthy living, nutrition, and exercise. It can also involve working with community organizations to provide support for those in need, such as food banks, homeless shelters, and job training programs.

Another important factor in achieving health equity is ensuring that healthcare is accessible and affordable for all. This can be accomplished by implementing healthcare reform, a part of which is the current shift towards a value-based payer system.

Overall, it’s clear that addressing SDoH requires a comprehensive and collaborative effort at both the policy and individual levels. By taking a multi-faceted approach, we can create a society that prioritizes and promotes health equity, and ensures that everyone has the opportunity to achieve optimal health outcomes, regardless of their background or circumstances. By working together towards this common goal, we can build a healthier, more resilient future for all.

Having worked on all sides of the healthcare industry, Karen Walker Johnson brings a vast and diverse set of skills and expertise to her leadership roles. She has focused her passion of leading teams to improve the health status of vulnerable populations. Devoted to exploring how healthcare disparities and social determinants play a role in individuals’ health, Karen actively explores new approaches to solve the healthcare problems of today. The knowledge and energy she brings to the table are an asset to corporate boards.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/karen-walker-johnson-68b8826

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