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Social Determinants of Health

All people have a history and a story which help form who they are, the attitudes with which they approach the world, and additionally are the factors in how people and society respond to them. These histories and stories are also largely dictated but the societies and cultures in which people are born, raised, age, work, and live. Further, more detailed considerations are, for example: marital and familial status, income, discrimination, education level, place of residence, transportation, access to green places, access to grocery stores, safety, stability in the home, insurance status, unreliable or unaffordable child care, and access and quality of health care. All these factors are interrelated and impact everyone in one way or another. However, for many these are negative impacts such as the lack of stable or quality housing, lack of access to quality health care, not earning a living wage, not having access to reliable or accessible transportation, and having limited access to nutritious foods. The lack of access of to both enough food and/or nutritious food are some of the main facets of the social determinants of health. Food and nutrition are essential human needs and they impact health and quality of life and ‘food security’ defined as “…access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life” is the fundamental component of this essential human need. However, many people in the U.S. are defined as ‘food insure,’ namely the state of being without reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food. Those who tend to be the most impacted by the negative social determinants of health are children, minorities, those who are lower or low-income, single parents, the elderly, those with lower educational attainment, those who have less access medical care, those with limited access to reliable transportation, people who are disabled, and those who live in low or lower-income neighborhoods. Some of these determinants can be compounded by secondary factors such as discrimination, mental health disorders, other social issues such as drug or alcohol substance use disorders, or lack of knowledge regarding community and state resources and options. The main way to address these issues is for individuals, medical and behavioral health facilities and providers, schools, and community resources to be made aware that these issues exist. Awareness, openness, effective non-judgmental communication, compassion, and having ready access to and information about community resources are the most invaluable tools in helping combat the negative social determinants of health such as lack of access to affordable, nutritious food. If you, your family, friends, coworkers or others in your social circle are experiencing food insecurity or other issues of need and lack of access to resources there are many community organizations such as Health West, Aid for Friends, the Idaho Food Bank, the Pocatello Free Clinic, Family Services Alliance, and so many more who can help provide you and those in your circle with information, resources, and aid. Daria Van Dolsen works at Health West as an Team Lead for Outreach and Enrollment.


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