Most of us understand there are medical and lifestyle factors that influence our healthcare. But did you know social determinants also play a role?
Social determinants of health are the non-medical factors that influence your ability to access healthcare services. The goal is to achieve health equity where all individuals have equal access to the same quality of care and treatment. Here are some of the key social determinants that influence a person’s health.
- Age: Age can influence and shape your healthcare whether you’re older or younger. Someone who is older might not have as much access to healthcare due to lack of transportation. Younger people might lack the financial resources to pay for healthcare or may not have as much access to community resources. These are factors that may shape a person’s ability to maintain their health.
- Citizen status: There are limited resources for people who are not citizens of the United States. This is coupled with a potential fear of accessing healthcare due to worries about deportation or the person’s situation being compromised in some way.
- Where you live: The community where you live greatly influences your health. Communities often have different resources; while one community may offer many ways for people to access healthcare, another may have fewer opportunities for residents. The safety of communities also is a factor – in some places, people may not feel safe enough to venture out to community clinics.
- Transportation: Transportation resources can vary greatly in communities. Inner city areas may have plenty of public transportation but it may not be safe for people to use. In suburban areas, there is often less access to public transportation. People may be able to get to healthcare facilities in an urgent situation but are less likely to get there for preventive care, such as annual visits or screenings.
- Workplace: Where a person works can influence access to healthcare. The hours a person works may not allow access to care during traditional weekday hours. It’s also important to consider if a person is underemployed. A person may be employed with health insurance but they might still not make enough money to pay for basic healthcare.
- Environment and pollution: Depending on where a person lives there may be environmental risk. Living in a crowded city may expose a person to higher pollution levels. In some communities, people may not have access to clean water. These are important things to consider when patients come to us with specific conditions. For example, if a patient has asthma, we need to look at a person’s home, workplace and school environments.
- Access to nutritious foods: Healthcare providers stress the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet. But not all our patients have access to those types of foods. It’s important to take into account how far away the nearest grocery store is and if the more nutritious items are affordable. A patient may know they need to eat healthier foods but may not know where to get them. Part of our role is finding ways to get them the nutritious foods they need.
- Access to physical health opportunities: We know regular exercise is important for maintaining health. Again, it comes down to access. People may live in communities where there isn’t safe access to a gym or it may cost too much money for them to join. We can help patients find solutions. For example, we might look at their home layout to map out a walking path or create a workout routine that incorporates stairs, if available.
- Racism: Sometimes individuals don’t access healthcare because of distrust in the healthcare system. They may have a history of themselves or family members having experienced racism when trying to access services. We need to understand these types of barriers and how to break them down. It makes it important to provide a warm, welcoming environment where all people feel safe.
- Social norms/cultural norms: It’s important for us to understand different beliefs and what is the norm in other cultures. This means understanding what we might expect to be a normal course of action may not be the same path for someone with different social, religious or cultural values. We need to be open to what individuals need and want, and how we can accommodate them for their particular situation.
- Education and quality of education: Education levels vary from community to community. With this comes different literacy levels and the ability to understand information and instruction from healthcare providers. Beyond education levels, not everyone speaks or understands English making it important to provide written materials and online content in different languages.
- Access to technology: The world is reliant on technology and it’s significantly more challenging to access information without it. There are patients without a phone or internet making it necessary to find alternate ways to get people the information they need.
Edward-Elmhurst Health helps people reach their full potential
Edward-Elmhurst Health care coordinators are our boots on the ground to help evaluate risk factors and how they play a role in a person’s health. We have developed a tool that helps us identify social determinants of health. If a person responds a certain way it triggers our care coordination team to meet with them to get more information and learn how we can help them meet their healthcare needs. We want to make sure individuals reach their full health potential. To learn more, visit us online or call 630-527-6363 .