Social Determinants of Health

Social Determinants of Health

When most people hear the word health, I’m sure the first words associated would be hospital or doctor. As we learned in class, however, there are so many other factors that contribute to our overall health. The social determinants of health are just as important as being treated as a hospital. Some of the social determinants we learned about in health include education and biology/genes.

Education has always been stressed in my family. As a daughter of U of M alumni, my parents have always taught me and my sisters that the world is much more open in terms of opportunities afforded to you with a higher education. Being a part of the working-class community, my parents can provide our family with health insurance that allows us to get both necessary and elective health benefits. Along with access to health insurance, education has also my family to practice healthier behaviors. Looking at other family members who do not have college degrees, I can visibly tell the difference in health practices, such as homemade meals versus fast food almost every day. Because with higher education comes a higher income bracket, my parents are often the people they go to when they need something. I guess one bright side of my parents being the high-income earners in the family is that our house is usually the go-to house for events and celebrations.

A social determinant that affects me negatively would be the biology structure of my family. My dad’s side of the family is prone to high cholesterol and heart disease. In 2004, my dad, unfortunately, suffered a mild heart attack. As a result, my family now must take extra precautions when to choose what to eat and I get my cholesterol checked more often than others.  

What do you guys think is the most prominent, or biggest social determinant affecting this generation?

12 thoughts on “Social Determinants of Health

  1. I think that education is a major social determinant in today’s society. I grew up in an environment that stressed the importance of education, so my family is knowledgeable about health care, ways to remain healthy, and what to do if someone has an illness. If a person is unfamiliar with health care, then they may not fully understand what their doctor is communicating to them and this could lead to confusion. Like you said, a higher education is usually linked to a higher income, so people that possess a higher education can normally afford health care, while others with a lower education may not have this luxury.

  2. Education is definitely a huge part of a social determinant. During the lecture, we talked about many different social determinants of health and the level of education one has affects many of the determinates, like one’s environment or income. People with higher education levels tend to make more money as they are usually considered for powerful jobs compared to people without certain degrees. The high income allows these people to go to the doctor more often as they probably have insurance or are able to pay for doctors appointments by themselves. The amount of money one makes can also affect the environment one lives in. With a higher income, one will usually live in a better neighborhood. This decent neighborhood will most likely have a good health center nearby with plenty of resources that will help their patients in the long run. Overall education, can lead to much better health care opportunities and is definitely a huge social determinant affecting this generation.

  3. Education is certainly one of the biggest social determinants of health. Data clearly shows that higher levels of education lead to better health.

    That being said, I think the biggest social determinant of health is socioeconomic status. The amount of money a person has allows them to live a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle. Those that are wealthy can afford to buy fresh produce and eat well balanced meals. On the other hand, those who are struggling to even pay for food are going to go for the cheaper and less healthy options. In result, those who eat unhealthy food for the majority of their lives suffer from severe health impacts.

  4. I think the “biggest social determinant” of health care that we’re currently facing is education. As society has progressed, everything has become more complex and intricate and it’s impossible for a person to have a firm understanding of everything. The resulting specialization of labor inevitably results in inequality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (a lot of historians regard job specialization as a qualification for “civilization”), but I think we’ve reached a point in which the majority of the American public doesn’t understand the intricacies of the health care system. A study published in the Journal of Health Economics found that only 14% of Americans under private insurance were able to answer 4 multiple choice questions about the definitions of deductible, copay, co-insurance, and out-of-pocket costs. (Loewenstein G, Friedman J, McGill B, Ahmad S, Linck S, Sinkula S, et al. Consumers’ misunderstanding of health insurance. J Health Econ. 2013;32:850–62.) For people without insurance or under a public plan, I would guess that the percentage is even lower. Getting people to understand health care is not an easy task, but it’s necessary to even begin to try solving other issues.

  5. I believe the biggest social determinant is socioeconomic status. There are statistics showing that female, transgender, and African-American patients are treated differently, socioeconomic status is a bigger determiner because if these minority patients have the disposable income they have the option to go to the best doctors in the bigger cities (which tend to be less biased against minorities). They also have to option to get a second opinion if they believe it is necessary. Low socioeconomic status is also a huge determinant for low income or lower-middle-class men and women regardless of any ethnic or gender background. This is because health care is extremely unaffordable.
    The best way to solve this problem is through education. Whether it is a college or trade school education, this education can help the individual afford the healthcare insurance necessary to cover the cost. There is also data to support the claim that people who are educated are often healthier individuals because they have a better understanding and better access to preventative care. There is also the challenge of understanding your healthcare plan. The comment above made my alcai is very thought provoking. If only 14% of Americans with an insurance plan know the definitions of deductible, copay,co-insurance, and out-of-pocket cost, then it is assumed that this the percentage is lower for people who do not have insurance at all. This is very alarming. Because of this, education is the key to not only gaining the socioeconomic status to afford healthcare, but also to understand the healthcare plan you are paying for.

  6. I think you brought up a valid point about observing the different health practices of different members of your family. I think another layer to that would be that college educated people, not only know how to take care of themselves better, but they also have more money to afford insurance and treatment. In your situation, you said that you have to take extra precautions because of your dad’s heart attack, but maybe someone who was not college educated and did not have as much money would not be able to afford healthier foods, further adding to their health disparity. I think that technology might have an impact on the health of people of this generation. More kids are spending time sitting inside playing video games and not running around playing outside. This might have some effects on the obesity rates and create unhealthy habits that these kids will have in their future.

  7. I agree with you that education is one of if not the biggest social determinant affecting this current generation. I have been lucky enough to have been surrounded by many people (including my parents) who have had higher education and thus had similar higher aspirations for me. After lecture, it hit me that having a higher education actually does benefit health in many different sorts of ways. We learned about the facts that people with higher education levels tend to have the financial resources to get to the doctor as often as they need to. Also those that are more educated are less likely to become ill than those who are less educated. If more people can become more involved in their own health interests, maybe people wouldn’t have to be as highly educated to be healthier. It may not always be possible to get to a doctor because of financial reasons, but maybe if when we went to the doctor we made those visits count more it might. Overall I do believe education is the biggest social determinant, but if those that have not had higher levels of education do some researcher about their health on their own, it may not have to be.

  8. I agree, education is an incredibly big and important social determinant that affects people daily. As we heard in lecture, people with higher levels of education tend to be in higher income brackets, which in turn affects their access to healthcare and other resources. With a higher income, people are more easily able to obtain the care that they need, and with a higher education level, they have more knowledge regarding healthier lifestyle choices. When people are unfamiliar with healthcare and healthy choices that are to be made, they are impacted in that they will likely not fully understand the situation. Education is an important factor towards making advances in healthcare and benefitting the population.

  9. The main social determinant that I feel is ruining this generation has to be the education. Many of my friends are either settling with a factory job or pursuing a higher education. I find that there are both pros and cons to being apart of either education group. With the people who are not perusing a higher education they tend to know less about the health care field and their options. However, some might say that not knowing is a good things because they can live life without having things in the back of their minds. The people who have more knowledge on health can have too many options, and they might feel like they know everything and not listen to their doctors advice. We need to have classes for everyone that can inform the right type of information.

  10. In my very humble opinion, there is no single most important social determinant for health. On the contrary, the combined effects of multiple determinants has the impact on health that occurs. For example, race, gender, and education levels all interact, either augmenting or lessening the effects of each other on the health of various individuals. Hence, it is not so simple to narrow down a single factor. We must work to address all the inequities in health in order to build a better health care system. Excellent discussion, all.

  11. I think socioeconomic status is one of the predominant social factors that influences health outcomes and disparities/inequities. Income can limit access to nutritious diets, and areas with concentrated poverty have fewer full service grocery stores, and often many more fast food restaurants.

  12. I agree that education has a big impact on how we deal with our health.  There seems to be a strong correlation between higher education and better wellness.  When you have a higher education, you obtain careers that provide health benefits that encourage preventive care.  Often emergency rooms are filled with people who use it as the primary source of care.

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