Social Determinants of Health for Health Care Professionals
The social determinants of health are the interrelated social, political and economic factors that create the conditions in which people live, learn, work and play.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care's 2018 Health Equity Guideline recognizes sixteen key social determinants of health that have the potential to influence health in positive and negative ways. Income, for example, plays a significant role in determining whether someone will endure negative or positive health outcomes.
The intersection of the social determinants of health causes these conditions to shift and change over time and across the life span, impacting the health of individuals, groups and communities in different ways.
How can I help patients address their social needs?
What health care professionals should know
The health equity lens
To target the social determinants of health, such as income, employment or housing, that may be affecting your patients, health care professionals are encouraged to apply a health equity lens.
A health equity lens is a set of reflective questions that health care professionals should consider to ensure equitable health interventions are made available to patients. The Ontario Public Health Association developed a position statement on applying a heath equity lens to help guide health care professionals incorporate equitable health interventions into their practice.
Health equity within practice
The social determinants of health may affect many of your patients. Some of your patients may struggle with issues such as making ends meet, accessing healthy food to eat or navigating government assistance programs. It's important to be aware of the resources that exist to be able support your patients with all of their underlying health needs.
The Physicians and Health Equity: Opportunities in Practice report lists areas of intervention that have been identified by physicians for addressing health equity within practice:
- Linking patients with supportive community programs and services
- Asking questions about a patient's social and economic circumstances
- Integrating considerations of social and economic conditions into treatment planning, such as cost of medications
- Advocating for changes to support improvements in the social and economic circumstances of the community, such as advocating for reductions in child poverty
- Undertaking advocacy on behalf of individual patients, such as letters about the need for safer housing
- Adopting equitable practice design, such as flexible office hours and convenient practice location
- Providing practical support to patients to access the federal and provincial / territorial programs for which they qualify
Resources for health care professionals
Niagara Priority Profiles
The Niagara Priority Profiles were created as a tool to help create a clearer understanding of what priority populations here in Niagara look like. There are eleven population profiles that have been deemed significant in Niagara using demographic and health outcome data specific to priority populations acknowledged from the provincial Health Equity Impact Assessment tool.
Each profile discusses health outcomes impacting each population which can better guide daily practices. Using the Niagara Priority Profiles can support:
- Understanding the demographic representation of the specific population of your patients
- Considering the intersectionality of the social determinants of health that shape the needs and lived experiences of your patients
- Understanding how health outcomes disproportionately impact certain priority populations
Tools for use in practice
- Poverty screening to find out what additional supports your patients might need
- Health equity toolkit: A resource inventory for health care organizations
- Health equity tools 2.0 provides a set of steps and questions that health professionals can follow to achieve health equity
- Health equity and COVID-19
- Working for health equity: The role of health professionals demonstrates health care professionals role in reducing health inequalities through action on the social determinants of health
- Addressing social determinants of health in primary care: a team-based approach
Resources for patients
Our health equity section is a great resource with information and tools to help patients achieve health equity for themselves and their communities.
INCommunities (211) is a free and confidential phone service that can provide information and referral services to your patient by calling 2-1-1. Each call is answered by an information and referral specialist and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
- Social determinants of health: key concepts
- Health promotion through an equity lens
- 10 promising practices to guide local health practice to reduce social inequities in health
- Let's talk: public health roles for improving health equity
- Common agenda for public health action on health equity
- Health equity impact assessments