The WHO defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being; not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Health is determined by many things:
- Social and economic factors
- Physical environment
- Health care
- Health behaviors
- Genes and biology
The 2017 Massachusetts State Health Assessment illustrates that genes, biology, and health care represent only a small percent of what makes us healthy (20%). Social and economic factors have a much greater impact (40%).
Social determinants of health are economic and social conditions that influence the health of people and communities. These conditions are shaped by the amount of money, power, and resources that people have access to. Oftentimes, they are also influenced by policies, institutions, and systems created by people with access to money, power, and resources.
The result is not everyone experiences the same opportunities for good health. Where you live, work, and play is a strong dictator of your health and well-being (individual, family, or community).
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) has grouped social determinants of health into six categories:
- Built Environment
- Social Environment
By identifying and prioritizing these categories, MDPH is aiming to transform inequitable policies, cultural norms, and structural barriers so that all people will have the same opportunity to be healthy, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or zip code.
Public Health 3.0: A Call to Action to Create a 21st Century Public Health Infrastructure (PH 3.0) is a report that addresses the need to focus on the social determinants of health as a way of creating lasting health improvements for everyone. PH 3.0 is a new model that calls for local public health agencies to move beyond traditional roles and to engage multiple sectors and community partners to generate collective impact and achieve health equity.