Social determinants of health are various conditions that affect human well-being and that are not related to individual attributes of people. These factors are not the same for different countries and regions but are shaped by income distribution, access to health services and information, local and global politics, and the state of development. This paper provides a brief overview of how social determinants affect health and how nurses can contribute to community health by breaking the chain of infection.
There is no ubiquitously accepted list of social determinants, but the World Health Organization (WHO) proposes two areas – living conditions, and economic environment (Marmot, 2018). These two categories include transportation, food, social exclusion, unemployment, social support, and others. It should be noted that health inequalities can occur even in developed countries because of unfair economic conditions. Contexts of healthcare systems are another place where there are sharp disparities. The WHO states that healthcare services should be accessible to all people instead of being a market commodity a few people can access (Marmot, 2018). In the United States, for instance, the cost of healthcare is so high that many people go bankrupt because of their medical debt (Wiltshire, Elder, Kiefe, & Allison, 2016). At the same time, the United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
Social determinants are the fundamental reason why some regions are healthier than others. For instance, in an area with no adequate access to clean water, the absence of sanitary conditions provides a means for the development and spread of various diseases. People with no knowledge of disease prevention and nutrition are another example of how illnesses spread. People are only equipped with this knowledge if the community is exposed to various training activities and information sessions. In turn, this condition is shaped by social and educational policies enforced by the government. Another perfect example is HIV – people with no information on the consequences of being infected and how the disease spreads are more prone to get infected with HIV.
Chain of Infection
The process of malicious bacteria ending up in a human’s organism and causing sickness is called the chain of infection. There are six elements in the chain, and each one of them can serve as a point where the chain breaks (Royal College of Nursing, 2019). The infectious agent is a bacteria or virus that leads to disease. Typically, a place where these infectious agents reside is called a reservoir, and it can be humans, insects, animals, objects at home, and others. A portal of exit is the place from where the bacteria leave the reservoir. Infectious agents travel from one place to another by various transmission means, such as inhalation and touching. These bacteria enter the human’s body at a portal of entry, such as the nose or damaged skin. Community health nurses may play a vital role in helping break this chain.
Because a person may get infected at any place, there are few cases when nurses can directly prevent contamination. Health professionals may provide flu shots and other vaccines to battle some of the most common diseases. However, there are many other illnesses that can be acquired at home and other places inaccessible to nurses. Therefore, the primary way health providers can break the chain is through comprehensive patient education. For instance, community health nurses can teach parents about the places that are the reservoirs of infectious agents and how they may be cleaned. Children can be taught to adequately and regularly wash their hands.
Conditions in which people are born, live, and grow are vital factors that affect well-being. These conditions are called social determinants of health and are grouped into two areas – living conditions and economic factors. The distribution of these determinants is unequal between countries, systems, and communities. In areas with more critical conditions, bacteria spread with no hindrances. However, through patient education, community health nurses are able to impact the situation positively.
Marmot, M. (2018). Social determinants, capabilities and health inequalities: A response to Bhugra, Greco, Fennell and Venkatapuram. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 19(4), 575-577.
Royal College of Nursing. (2019). Chain of infection. Web.
Wiltshire, J. C., Elder, K., Kiefe, C., & Allison, J. J. (2016). Medical debt and related financial consequences among older African American and white adults. American Journal of Public health, 106(6), 1086-1091.