Social Determinants of Health and Disease

by Cameron Willis






As some of us may know, there are many influences to our health, but some aren’t necessarily medical. These are referred to as social determinants, and it includes the direct effect of social conditions on our health. Social determinants include, but aren’t limited to where we are born, how we grow up, accessibility, education, income, ethnicity, and many more. These factors have a powerful impact on our health outcome, whether we realize it or not. Knowing that it is completely separate from medical care shows just how influential it is. This has a lot to do with a person's place in society and their access to socioeconomic resources. If you look at it, medical care would practically be insufficient for heading towards a better health outcome if caused by something social. A person who lives in poverty and works three jobs will not experience the same level of health as someone who is wealthy and working their dream job. Economic status also ties to availability of resources such as healthy food, medical services, clean environment, and affordable transportation. There are many things, major and minor, that take a toll on everyone’s body. In most cases, our health history aligns with our social lives. Some people say that there’s no excuse for not eating healthy and exercising, but life, and our health, goes deeper than that.


Our experiences tell a story about our past and our present, which includes all of our experiences. If we take a look at the medical history of someone who grew up poor in an abusive household vs. someone who grew up on the other side of the spectrum, we’d see a huge difference. You can take someone's records, hear their life story, and think to yourself and say, “this all makes sense” or “no wonder”. One's particular situation determines their ability to take care of themselves, and in most cases, this can be shown through their current health.


A person with low income can face many challenges. One challenge is not having the ability to eat or maintain a healthy diet due to the lack of resources available. Being someone who doesn’t live close to a supermarket, doesn’t have access to fresh meat and vegetables. If you do have a way of transportation, you still have to be able to afford driving back and forth, and that isn’t cheap. This leads to people not going at all or only going when they have the means to. In addition to that, they also buy whatever they can get in their neighborhood, which is most likely from a fast-food place or a liquor store, because it’s cheap, and available. When it comes to getting the proper exercise you need, a child in poverty is restricted because there is no safe place to play or exercise. Another thing that was stated on the website is, “Kids who stay indoors a lot are also more likely to have asthma and be exposed to higher levels of lead and other toxins”. This also leads to obesity and proves the fact that children who are in this position are more susceptible to being overweight. Managing stress is also difficult because you have so many demands to tend to. Demands that leave no room for error or absence. They also don’t have the time to process and deal with it because they are always busy doing something else besides tending to their mental health. It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s the simple fact that they feel the need to tend to everyone else such as kids, spouses, and other family members. On top of that, they also carry the burden of what affects the people they take care of, so that piles on top of the stress they deal with within themselves. This explains how stress can lead to poor health outcomes, both mentally and physically.


It takes a lot of strength to overcome unhealthy habits and behaviors, and this is because they were things that took you away from your reality. It was temporary happiness. It made you forget what you face on a daily basis, and gave you a sense of relaxation. If you don't have access to the right resources, evidently you don’t have proper options that enable you to have a smooth transition towards a better lifestyle. Everyone needs help to pull themselves out of a dark place or even just a mild bad habit, but without support and affordable resources, attaining better habits is difficult, and can also cause one to be stuck in a never-ending cycle.


All in all, we must be aware that social determinants affect us on a daily basis. This is not always necessarily negative, but it is still important to be aware of. America doesn’t do a great job of making things better, so it’s up to us to make changes within our family and our communities. Our past and present experiences have a close relationship to our health, and it’s important that we monitor ourselves as much as we can.



References


UNNATURAL CAUSES | Interactivities . A Tale of Two Smokers | CALIFORNIA NEWSREEL.

(2008). Unnatural Causes. https://unnaturalcauses.org/interactivities_02.php


Cameron Willis writes about Healthcare and Policy for Sarah Mason Consulting LLC.

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