Social Determinants of Health in the United States


The cost of medical care per person in the US has increased tremendously despite the continued deterioration of the overall population health. The prevalence of chronic diseases in the United States keeps on rising, with about 60% of the population currently having one or more of such conditions. About 66% of the American population is either obese or overweight, and 33% has hypertension. The proportion of individuals having diabetes is anticipated to rise by over 50% in the next decade.

Unlike America, other developed nations spend approximately 7% less of the gross domestic product on medical care. Shockingly, such nations have more improved medical outcomes encompassing higher life expectancy, lesser infant mortality level, and a smaller chronic disease burden than the United States. The major source of the US’ increasing rate of expenditures and deteriorating medical outcomes is the country’s over-investment in healthcare while greatly disregarding other aspects that influence people’s health.

Social Determinants of Health

Social determinants of health denote a subset of non-medical causal factors of poor well-being and clinical outcomes. Although health care provision systems affect people’s welfare during occurrences of diseases or injuries, social determinants interrelate with medical conditions much earlier and on a daily basis. The five determinants include the situations in which individuals reside, work, learn, age, and wider social situations that people find themselves in and influence their health, for example, race.

Social determinants have the ability to influence people’s health directly or indirectly, affecting medical conditions by determining their behavior. Social concepts that lead to poor medical outcomes include housing insecurity, unemployment, and poverty. Most of the social concepts are greatly linked to people’s health but not essentially causal. Moreover, all social determinants of health (apart from the race) are subject to change in the course of a person’s life.

Negative Impact on Minority Populations

The minority population is one of the social determinants of health. It falls under the broad social circumstances in which people find themselves and affect their medical conditions. The negative effects on minority populations that result in the existence of health disparities encompass social concepts such as poverty (poor socioeconomic status), unemployment, doctors’ referral bias, and stress/depression. Health problems among minority populations such as African Americans are linked to increased smoking, reduced physical activity, and poor nutrition. Such factors result in a high risk of cancers, mainly breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, and shorter life expectancy. Based on any measure of health, people of high social-economic status have better medical conditions.

Anchored in social cognitive theory, the race or socioeconomic status in which people are born interacts with other determinants of health to establish the alternatives individuals have and their behavior. For example, being born in a minority population has a strong negative influence on where people afford to live, their level and quality of education, and in most instances, the nature of jobs they obtain.

Regardless of the many hindrances that could make upward mobility difficult for minority populations thanks to their low socioeconomic status, it is still possible through a change in their social standing irrespective of race being unchangeable. Attributable to poor eating habits and social concepts such as poverty, African Americans are in a minority population that also experiences considerably high levels of chronic conditions and coronary heart disease, to mention a few.

The Importance of Addressing Social Determinants of Health

Addressing social determinants of health is important because it leads to high life expectancy and reduced infant mortality rate. It also results in the improvement of the economy attributable to decreased expenditures on health, which makes a country have enough money to fund development projects. Such successful measures will also make medical professionals, policymakers, people, and communities understand the significance of health equity and desired behaviors while targeting the needs of the affected populations. This will play a vital role in decreasing health disparities and improving awareness of social determinants, which is a significant element of doctors’ functions as stewards and proponents of medical care.

Recommendation for Addressing

Social cognitive theory affirms that personal experiences, actions of other people, and environmental aspects have a major role in shaping one’s behaviors with respect to health. The theory offers chances of social support via inculcating anticipations, self-efficacy, observational learning, and other practices to realize behavioral change for the sake of people’s health. Using social cognitive theory, physicians could instill the belief that people from minority populations such as African Americans have control over their medical conditions through such practices as observing healthy nutrition and eating habits. Moreover, observational learning would benefit the affected individuals through watching outcomes of other people who have adopted desired behaviors.

Policymakers should recognize the existing social determinants and integrate them into public strategies. This will facilitate a decrease in medical expenditures for the government, people, and insurers over and above, leading to improved health outcomes. Moreover, social determinants, affected populations, and concerns associated with health inequities ought to be incorporated in medical education at every level. This will make medical professionals knowledgeable concerning screening and the most effective practices of treating patients affected by social determinants of health.

Conclusion

Expenditure on medical care per person in the United States has risen tremendously despite the continued worsening of the general population’s health. The major cause of the increasing costs and weakening medical outcomes is the country’s over-investment in healthcare while ignoring other aspects of people’s health. Effectively addressing social determinants of health requires a multi-sectoral approach to tackle deep-seated problems such as disparities, unemployment, racial discrimination, and low economic status.