What are Determinants of Health?



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The resources we have available throughout our lives from pre-birth to old age-education, family income, jobs we hold-influences the quality of our lives and our health outcomes. Community, family, neighborhood, and school environments shape our early development. Along with the work environments we enter as adolescents and young adults, these factors continue to influence the way that adulthood and old age unfold ("Reaching for a Healthier Life: Facts on Socioeconomic Status and Health in the US" John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health).

These determinants of health (often referred to as social determinants of health) are a combination of many factors that affect the health of individuals and communities. Where we live, learn, work and play has considerable impact on health although most of our funding is concentrated on health care services (access and use).

Where You Live Matters

It's easy to identify differences in our environments that affect our health. As we take a walk through our neighborhoods, we see the presence or absence of parks and playgrounds, safe streets, public transportation, good housing, pollution, grocery stores, buildings in good repair, schools, etc. What we might not always realize is that each feature may be an opportunity to support better health.

Public health practice calls for a new way to think about improving the health of a neighborhood, community, or nation based on a gradient with two endpoints in which people move from less education, less wealth, and poor health outcomes to more education, more wealth, and better health outcomes. To move from one point on the continuum to the next requires not only an emphasis on availability and access to medical care but an increasingly larger focus on environmental factors that support a default to healthy behavior choices that prevent the onset of diseases and likelihood for injuries.

In Kansas, the Healthy Kansans 2010 workgroup identified a number of key determinants of health. To picture what these conditions for good or poor health may look like, see Determinants of Health in Kansas PDF Document

To learn more about the determinants of health, the following websites may be helpful: