Social Determinants of Health

This post covers a KEY ISSUE: this topic could impact the future of HIV/AIDS policy.

An emerging topic in public health promotion is the concept of “social determinants of health.” This concept focuses on the social, economic, and environmental factors that either contribute to an individual’s risks of acquiring a disease or incurring poor health—or, conversely, protect an individual from those risks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have defined social determinants of health as: socioeconomic status; transportation; housing; access to services; discrimination by social grouping (e.g., race, gender, class); and social or environmental stressors. Social determinants of health can affect an individual’s probability of acquiring an infectious disease, such as HIV, through influences on behavior, limited access to preventive measures, and limited access to healthcare providers or testing sites. There is no official policy on social determinants of health, but the CDC has held a recent consultation on the topic.



  1. Jamie F. says:

    The current social determinants of health are one of the major reasons that I believe there needs to be better access to affordable health care. I believe that if people from all walks of life were able to receive the same access to decent health care, then we wouldn’t see these “social determinants of health” affect people as much. If people from poorer communities were able to meet with doctors and nurses who could give them advice to prevent them from acquiring illnesses, I believe that we would see a change in the way these determinants affect different classes and communities. I believe that one of the keys to this is the idea of focusing our health care system on prevention of disease as opposed to treatment after acquiring an illness. Allowing all people affordable access to health care, in my opinion, would change the current social determinants of health to ones that are less discriminatory to different economic classes.

  2. There are a few (too few?) leaders who are vocal on this right now. The question remains: Is anyone listening? And if not, why?
    Meanwhile, on a grass-roots level, multi-stakeholders are coming together in a growing number of communities to explore and take action on the social determinants of health in the places people live and work. We welcome participation by all:

  3. The biggest social determinant to health is the lack of unprocessed wholesome inexpensive food.
    People choose food that does not support a healthy body for one of 2 reasons. They are not educated enough to know what promotes good health or they can not afford to buy foods that are nutritional dense that would support a healthy body.
    It’s sad to see such places as McDonald’s sales continue to increase as the economy worsens. Cheap food yes, healthy no.

  4. I have to agree with you Jen. I too find it troubling how it seems like no one strives for better health. I often find myself trying to help my close friends and relatives eat healthier and it can be frustrating knowing what they are doing to their bodies, but we just have to do what we can.

  5. Jen – You stated that there are just 2 reasons why people choose foods that don’t support a healthy body but you neglected to include “choice”. Highly educated people AND people with money CHOOSE to eat food that is not considered healthy, as do people who are not educated or wealthy. Let’s not forget this very important aspect to health – personal choice and responsibility.

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