Define social determinants of health. How do you feel that social determinants of health play a role in the health status of vulnerable populations groups? How can we use some of the lessons learned from past public health contributions such as the Henrietta Lacks Story, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, or the Stanford Prison Experiment to introduce public health interventions that will be beneficial for less fortunate populations?
A social determinant of health is any factor that influences a person’s health and well-being, including economic, social, environmental, and occupational factors. These factors can have a direct or indirect impact on your ability to lead a healthy life.
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Social determinants of health are often ignored or underserved in the U.S., which means they affect a large proportion of the population. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social determinants of health are “the conditions in which people are born, grow up, work, live and age — from their basic physical and social environment to their opportunities and capabilities.”
Some of the most important social determinants of health include:
– Income: Low income is linked with increased rates of obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.
– Education: Having a high school diploma or a degree increases a person’s chances of avoiding premature death by nearly 50%.
– Employment: Employment is key to improving both mental and physical health. It provides dignity, pays the bills, and allows people to access necessary health care.
– Housing: Access to safe, affordable housing is essential for preventing poverty and promoting good health. Homelessness also raises risks for respiratory problems, mental illness, and drug abuse.
– Wealth: Having wealth protects people from many illnesses – including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS – by providing them with access to healthy food and education.
Henrietta Lacks Story
Henrietta Lacks’s story has been told and retold so often, it is hard to believe that it truly began with a simple pathology report. In 1951, a 26-year-old black woman named Henrietta Lacks came to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore with cervical cancer. Doctors didn’t know how to treat her and gave her only a few weeks to live. But when they took tissue samples from her tumor, they made an unexpected discovery – the cancer had spread throughout her body, but there was no obvious source. The samples were immediately placed in cold storage and no one knew what to do with them.
Nearly fifty years later, in 1988, researchers at Johns Hopkins decided to look for the source of the cancer in the tissue samples. They found it in a culture of bacteria that was growing on the surface of the cells that had been taken from Mrs. Lacks’s tumor.
This single cell line (now known as HeLa) has become one of the most important sources of medical knowledge in history, helping us understand everything from cancer development to genetic sequencing.
Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment was a social psychology study designed to measure the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners. The study was conducted between February and June of 1971, and involved 24 male prisoners who were randomly assigned to either a control group or a prison group.
The prison group consisted of 12 men who were kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, 5 days a week. The control group consisted of 12 men who were kept in the same conditions as the prisoners in the prison group, but without solitary confinement.
The study lasted six months, and at the end of it the results showed that the prisoners in the prison group had significantly increased levels of aggression and antisocial behavior compared to the control group.
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Examples of social determinants include: Availability of resources to meet daily needs, such as educational and job opportunities, living wages, or healthful foods. Social norms and attitudes, such as discrimination. Exposure to crime, violence, and social disorder, such as the presence of trash.
Social determinants of health such as poverty, unequal access to health care, lack of education, stigma, and racism are underlying, contributing factors of health inequities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is committed to achieving improvements in people’s lives by reducing health inequities.
What are social determinants of health? Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.
In general, people from poorer social or economic circumstances are at greater risk of poor health, have higher rates of illness, disability and death, and live shorter lives than those who are more advantaged (Mackenbach 2015). Generally, every step up the socioeconomic ladder is accompanied by an increase in health.