Social Determinants of Health

Poverty as a Social Determinant of Health

The health status of individuals and communities depends on a large number of influential factors. They are interconnected between each other and determine the overall well-being of people. The majority of scholarly approaches to the classification of the determinants of health define three groups as social, environmental, and cultural. Within each of the determinants, a wide range of specific factors lies influencing the health status of persons and communities in any country in the modern world. In this essay, poverty is illustrated by the photograph and assessed as one of the key social determinants of health.

Poverty as a Social Determinant of Health

Photography as one of the most powerful artistic tools capable of underlining the meanings and implications that address vitally important issues is widely used in many spheres of the modern life. The potential to retrieve more information from an image than any detailed verbal description can provide empowers the use of photography in the health-care promotion and raising awareness about the essential issues in this sphere. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (2018), there are three main groups of determinants of health. They include “the social and economic environment, the physical environment, and the person’s individual characteristics and behaviors” (World Health Organization, 2018, para. 2). The determinant of health chosen for this essay and illustrated in the photograph is poverty which belongs to the social determinants group. Poverty flows out of the collision of social and economic disadvantageous factors which undermine the essential basis for self-care, prevention or treatment of the illnesses within the medical framework.

In the photo, a poor remote area in South Asia is shown. It illustrates the lack of any primary accommodation like electricity, heating, proper sanitation that decrease the level of life quality of the people inhabiting the area. The neighborhood is not provided with any educational and medical facilities or transportation systems. All of these factors negatively impact the health status of the people who live in this and similar places. The lifestyle they lead due to the economic misfortune “causes health inequities” (Picket & Wikinson, 2015, p.317). The conditions in which the individuals live harm their well-being and, also, they are deprived of the opportunity to be treated from the illnesses. The lack of financial support diminishes the development in this sphere. However, the everyday life picture any citizen of a developed country sees is significantly different. Therefore, the photograph underlines the inequality in health care services as a result of poverty.

Poverty as a critical lack of finances imposes low living standards, bad health, decreased accessibility and the quality of health services. The possibility of healthcare interventions depends on many factors, inequality being the most significant one (Prochaska et al., 2014). Income inequality between different communities or individuals, as well as economic inequality between developed and underdeveloped countries, is recognized by the majority of people as a core influencer on health (von dem Knesebeck, Vonneilich, & Kim, 2018). All these factors play an essential role in influencing the well-being of a population.

The Approaches Aimed at Health Status Improvement

Poverty and low income as the elements of a social determinant of health impose health care inequality and present a variety of issues that need to be resolved. The specialists working in the area agree that “to reduce health inequalities requires action to reduce socioeconomic and other inequalities” (Marmot & Allen, 2014, p. 517). There might be several different approaches aimed at improvement of health status and equity regarding poverty. The first, and the broadest, approach is comprised of efforts in creating the appropriate healthcare system in the areas with a high level of poverty. It is important for the inhabitants of such communities to have access to medical services to be treated on timely bases with proper attention. Within this framework, it is also crucial for such services to be affordable for the poor population. To achieve this aim, two possible ways of action might be appropriate for consideration. They consist in the second and the third approaches discussed here.

One of the efficient methods targeting the affordability of health care for the poor is the implementation of the international charity programs. Such projects might be organized according to the ones introduced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2015) for the indigenous peoples inhabiting Australia. The similar programs might have a positive effect on the poor communities in different countries of the world suffering poverty and healthcare neglect as a result. These kinds of projects study the reasons and look for the solutions of the healthcare related problems of the financially and socially disadvantaged communities (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015). Thus, the poor areas medical system and the health status of their inhabitants might benefit from the charity programs raising awareness about the poverty as a determinant of health.

Another method that could be useful in increasing the level of the health condition of a population is reducing income inequality. Such an approach will enable upgrading the accessibility of medical services for a more significant number of citizens and will improve the overall health and well-being of the population (Picket & Wikinson, 2015). There are a lot of interventions introduced within the framework of global strategies targeting the financial inequality as the most influential factor of the decline in health care quality (Donkin, Goldblatt, Allen, Nathanson, & Marmot, 2018). This approach requires a long-term implementation of a series of steps to improve the overall economic and political background of the regions that face poverty as an obstacle on the way to healthy population (Bircher & Kuruvilla, 2014). Only a structural reorganization from within the territory administration scheme would allow any progressive change to be achieved.

Photography as a Perspective of Health Issues Vision

Practically, all the determinants of health are intertwined and lead to either positive or negative consequences. Regarding the poverty as a social determinant of health, its importance is promoted by the photograph. The process of taking a picture made me think about the determinants of health beyond the scope of the traditional academic discussion. The illustrated problem helps identify the broader issues in healthcare that people challenge in their everyday life.

A vivid demonstration of the poor neighborhood where the people have no proper accommodation needed to stay healthy, and, moreover, no supplies essential for performing medical interventions to retrieve a variety of emotions. It is widely acknowledged that the emotional side of any pivotal discussion is capable of influencing people and encouraging them for action. That is why the use of photography in healthcare improvement promotion might be a very effective tool for success. It will raise awareness and employ the necessary emotional feedback from the ordinary people, as well as the responsible specialists.


Concluding the discussion of the determinants of health, it is relevant to underline that there exist some dominant social and economic factors determining the status of people’s health. Low income and the subsequent poverty determines poor health conditions of the population due to its influence on the living standards, health issues awareness, accessibility, and quality of health care services. It is vital to implement effective approaches aimed at the elimination of poverty as a determinant of health.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2015). The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Web.

Bircher, J., & Kuruvilla, S. (2014). Defining health by addressing individual, social, and environmental determinants: New opportunities for health care and public health. Journal of Public Health Policy, 35(3), 363-386.

Donkin, A., Goldblatt, P., Allen, J., Nathanson, V., & Marmot, M. (2018). Global action on the social determinants of health. British Medical Journal Global Health, 3(1). Web.

Marmot, M., & Allen, J.J. (2014). Social determinants of health equity. American Journal of Public Health, 104(4), 517-519.

Picket, K.E., & Wikinson, R.J. (2015). Income inequality and health: A causal review. Social Science and Medicine, 128, 316-326.

Prochaska, J.D., Nolen, A.B., Kelley, H., Sexton, K., Linder, S.H., & Sullivan, J. (2014). Social determinants of health in environmental justice communities: Examining cumulative risk in terms of environmental exposures and social determinants of health. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal, 20(4), 980-994.

von dem Knesebeck, O., Vonneilich, N., & Kim, T.J. (2018). Public awareness of poverty as a determinant of health: survey results from 23 countries. International Journal of Public Health, 63(2), 165-172.

World Health Organization. (2018). The determinants of health. Web.