The World Health Organization (WHO) determined a list of social and economic factors that influence a person’s wellbeing and ability to engage in healthy behaviors, coined the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). The list has been added to and changed over the years, but a core group remains the same. At the basic level, the SDOH include education, employment, environment, food, health, housing, race, social support and inclusion, and transportation.

The SDOH tend to be interconnected, multi-generational, and cyclical. Each determinant consists of subcategories and issues that all require individual focus. The World Health Organization commissioned a report about the SDOH and their causes; it says that the SDOH are often “a result of a toxic combination of poor social policies and programs, unfair economic arrangements, and bad politics.” Addressing the SDOH allows for a broader, long-term, and more comprehensive approach to improving the overall health of members of a population. Additionally, alleviating the stresses of the SDOH allows for more equal social and economic opportunities for disadvantaged groups.

Tackling the determinants requires collaboration across fields and interests, as well as policy aid. NRCDC’s comprehensive community development work addresses people, housing, economics, health, environment, education, asset building, and inclusion – many of the SDOH. In Houston, there are scores of other non-governmental organizations working on solutions for different determinants. We’ll be diving deeper into the determinants and highlight some of the efforts being undertaken to help around the city on this blog.

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