How can we get the social determinants of health message on the public policy and public health agenda?
Translating data into a Social determinant of health SDH Information Tool to inform policy and public health programs:
Using existing databases to create community profiles of social factors that shape
Len B. Novilla, Michael D. Barnes, Carl Hanson, Josh West, Eric Edwards
Background paper: WHO - World Conference on Social Determinants of Health, 19-21 October 2011,
Available online PDF [24p.] at: http://bit.ly/nLMfk3
“…..For the last 20 years, from 1990-2010, the State of Utah had consistently been ranked among the top 10 healthiest states in the United States.1 However, a closer look at Utah’s life expectancies belies problems that run deep into the local levels. Disaggregating state-level data into 29 counties2 and then further down into 61 small areas as to groups or single zip codes,3 revealed disparities in life expectancies at birth (2009 estimates).4 Within the same county, there was a graded difference in life expectancies. Some areas have life expectancies over 80 years, far better than the nation’s and comparable to the five best in the world.5
Yet residents living just three to ten miles away within the same county, could die three to 10 years sooner (See Table 1),4 with an average life span about as long as those in developing countries.5 These disparities across counties was key to the drop in Utah’s 2010 health ranking, from second in 2009 to seventh in the nation in 2010, the lowest it had ever garnered in the last 20 years.1
Since life expectancies measure health status and summarize mortality across age groups in a specific area,4,6 these differences in life expectancies point to inequalities in health stemming from the “causes of the causes,”7 or the living conditions and processes that determine the overall quality of life, broadly referred to as the social determinants of health (SDH). Though much more apparent among the vulnerable, at-risk, and underserved populations, disparities in health occur differentially across social groups, limiting life spans as well as socio-economic mobility.
Despite the impact of social factors on health, translating the social determinants of health through policy and practice is fraught with challenges…..”
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