Social Determinants of Health


The question that often comes into the minds of researchers when examining the issue of health revolves around the ability to create social structures that can prevent the emergence of diseases. This is what translates into a healthy society. This paper presents an analysis of social determinants of health based on the article by Koh, Piotrowski, Kumanyika and Fielding (2011), “Healthy people: A 2020 vision for the social determinants approach”.

Implications of the social determinants of health

The article by Koh et al. (2011) is based on a forward look of what are perceived to be the social determinants of health. The most critical thing to note in this article is the developments that portray a broad view of the social determinants of health. Among the things that are brought out in the article is the change in the goals of promoting health in the social sense. The projected goals focus on the need for collaboration among the stakeholders in determining the mental and physical attributes, as well as the contribution of human behavior and social structures in enhancing the health of people in the society. It is imperative to observe that, “Specifically, the 2020 plan emphasizes the need to consider factors such as poverty, education, and numerous aspects of the social structure that not only influence the health of populations but also limit the ability of many to achieve health equity” (Koh et al. 2011, p. 552). The same views are reiterated by Krumeich and Meershoek (2014), who view that factors like poverty and lack of social justice stand in the way of delivering health care in the contemporary society.

How the social determinants of health contribute to health disparities

Disparities in the delivery of health increase with the widening gap in the number of social push and pull factors that determine the provision of health care. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2012), social forces often combine with other problems in the economic realms of the society to compound the health care situation. Koh et al. (2011) mention that the achievement of equity in health care can be hardly attained when a favorable environment has not been created to promote a healthy society. According to Baum et al. (2013), there is no systematic policy to address the social problems that prevail in the society, which in turn means that more problems are borne out of the social challenges that are quite prominent across the society. An example that can be given here is the failure to embrace certain forms of behavior, like engaging in unprotected sex, which in turn promotes the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Alternate significance of the social determinants of health

A look at the health care sector denotes the complex issue of dealing decisively with the problem of lack of primary health care, from which most problems of health are derived. According to Koh et al. (2011), a focus on the improvement of quality of life for all people is something that is of great importance in the effective delivery of health care. Prasad, Chakraborty, Yadav and Bhatia (2013) agree there is a need to recognize the fact that the determinants of health vary according to the environment. For example, the social determinants of health in the rural areas are different from the determinants of health in urban areas.


The social factors that affect health are numerous because the more social problems are not addressed the more problems keep arising. This increases the problem of health care delivery. Based on the discussion in the paper, it is right to conclude that the field of health care keeps becoming more complex because of the way the social issues integrate and affect health care.


Baum, F. E., Legge, D. G., Freeman, T., Lawless, A., Labonté, R., & Jolley, G. M. (2013). The potential for multi-disciplinary primary health care services to take action on the social determinants of health: actions and constraints. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 1-13.

Koh, H. K., Piotrowski, J. J., Kumanyika, S., & Fielding, J. E. (2011). Health Education and Behavior, 38(6), 551–557. Web.

Krumeich, A., & Meershoek, A. (2014). Health in global context; beyond the social determinants of health? Global Health Action, 71-8.

Prasad, A., Chakraborty, G., Yadav, S., & Bhatia, S. (2013). Addressing the social determinants of health through health system strengthening and inter-sectoral convergence: the case of the Indian National Rural Health Mission. Global Health Action, 61-11.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). Web.

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