The social determinants of health (SDOH) are the conditions in the environment in which an individual is born. It is where the individual works, plays, worships, and interacts, and it affects the overall quality of life. The five categories of the social determinants of health are economic stability, education access and quality, healthcare access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, and the social and community context.
Economic stability refers to the ability of an individual to afford healthy foods, reliable healthcare, or other basic needs for survival. In the United States, 1 in 10 people, 10% of people, live in poverty and can’t afford those basic necessities (Healthy People 2030, 2022). This puts them at a high risk for developing illness, and not having the resources to seek out professional help. People with steady employment are more likely to be healthy. The issue with employment, is most people can’t keep a stable job. People with disabilities or injury are at most limited in their ability to find and maintain a job (Healthy People 2030, 2022). Also, many people with steady employment and income still struggle to afford the things they need to be healthy.
Studies show that people with higher education are more likely to be healthy and live longer (Healthy People 2030, 2022). Students from low-income families are less likely to graduate from high school, thus less likely to go to college and earn high-paying jobs. This puts them at a higher risk of developing diseases like heart disease, diabetes, or depression (Healthy People 2030, 2022).
The neighborhoods that people reside in have a significant impact on their health. Many U.S residents live in areas of high crime, high rates of violence, unsafe water or air, and other risks (Healthy People 2030, 2022). These all make someone more likely to become ill or even result in death.
Another SODH that has a major impact on an individual’s health is their connections to family, friends, co-workers, and community members. Positive relationships help counteract the negative aspects of someone’s life.
The SODH that, as future nurses, we can contribute to the most is health care access and quality. Many people in the United States do not receive the healthcare that they need. About 10% of Americans don’t have health insurance and are reluctant to seek medical aid (Healthy People 2030, 2022). Those without insurance are more likely without a provider and they are unable to afford the medications or procedures that they need (Healthy People 2030, 2022). This contributes to illness because people do not do pre-screenings for certain diseases and it puts them at higher risk for developing diseases that could have been prevented. As nurses, there are many ways to help individuals who are underserved because of their SDOH. Through the use of the nursing process, nurses should assess the patient and determine their status. All patients have the right to be treated by medical professionals. The nurses can plan and implement interventions that are related to a patient’s issue. For example, if a patient cannot afford their medications, the nurse can refer them to the correct community health centers that will help them get access to their medications at a price that is affordable to them. Also, the nurse is able to offer the option of a payment plan. Then, the nurse can evaluate if the interventions were useful and adjust accordingly.
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