Inside Our Research on Social Determinants of Health
Social determinants of health recognize that many factors can contribute to health beyond just health and safety. By examining social determinants of health we are better able to create social and physical environments that promote the health of everyone – it is necessary for health equity.
What Are Social Determinants of Health?
Social determinants of health are conditions, environments, and settings that impact not only health but also overall quality of life. “By working to establish policies that positively influence social and economic conditions and those that support changes in individual behavior, we can improve health for large numbers of people in ways that can be sustained over time. Improving the conditions in which we live, learn, work, and play and the quality of our relationships will create a healthier population, society, and workforce” (United States Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, n.d.). Attention to social determinants of health is critical for health equity, especially for people who disabilities who face health disparities and inequities compared to nondisabled people. Attention to social determinants of health can promote the health and quality of life of people with disabilities.
We have conducted a number of research activities related to social determinants of health. For example, we created the Social Determinants of Health Index so that organizations can measure the social determinants of health of those they support, as well as determine where to target supports. Aggregate Index data could also be utilized to compare the quality of different providers or states.
We also examine social determinants of health in the context of managed care, alternative payment models, and value-based payments. For example, our research has explored the impact of quality on outcomes, such as emergency room visits, abuse and neglect, injuries, medication errors, and behavioral events. Our findings suggest that respect, meaningful days, staff training, and many more social determinants have an impact on hospitalizations, injuries, medication errors, and behavioral issues. By focusing on social determinants, quality will not only increase, but there is also the potential for cost savings as attention to social determinants can improve people’s health.