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Section 17. Addressing Social Determinants of Health in Your Community

What are social determinants of health and health equity?

__ The social determinants of health are the factors in the society that support or act as barriers to the health of an individual, population, or community.

__ Health equity is when everyone has the opportunity to “attain their full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of their social position or other socially determined circumstance.”

What do we mean by developing a social determinants of health initiative in your community?

__ By addressing social determinants of health, rather than (or in addition to) focusing on specific health problems or issues, you can get at the root causes of the problem and create long-term change.

Why develop a social determinants of health initiative in your community?

__ A social determinants of health initiative demands a participatory process that involves all sectors of the community.

__ Aiming at social determinants helps to get at the root causes of inequity.

__ A social determinants effort addresses social change through the development of greater equity.

__ A social determinants initiative creates community partnerships that can endure, and be directed to other issues as well.

__ A social determinants effort uses the knowledge of those most affected, as well as others in the community.

__ Such an effort educates the community about health inequity and inequity in general.

__ As a result, a social determinants initiative can help to create a fairer, more equitable community that deals with discrimination and other equity issues.

__ A participatory social determinants effort can create new community leaders.

How do you develop a social determinants of health initiative?

Step 1: Assemble your partnership

__ Define your community.

__ Determine who should be included in the partnership.

__ Contact potential partners and convince them to participate.

__ Choose a facilitator.

__ Establish guiding principles for the partnership.

Step 2: Focus your partnership on social determinants of health

__ Assess social determinants.

__ Develop a vision and mission.

__ Identify and prioritize goals and objectives.

Step 3: Building capacity to address social determinants of health

__ “Community capacity” refers to the resources, infrastructures, relationships, and operations that enable a community to create change – community assets, in other words.

__ Assess community capacity.

__ Build community capacity.           

  • Develop a shared language and common understanding among partners and community members of how social determinants influence health.
  • Involve as many people, organizations, and sectors as possible in the planning and implementation of your initiative.
  • Identify and use existing social networks and relationships to inform more people and involve them in the initiative.
  • Identify useful assets that community members and organizations can bring to the effort.
  • Share information with the community about social determinants, the results of your assessments, and the vision and mission of your initiative.       

Step 4: Selecting your approach to create change

__ Consciousness raising.

__ Community (locality) development.

__ Social action.

__ Health promotion.

__ Media advocacy.

__ Policy and environmental change.

Step 5: Planning for action

__ Assemble a planning team.

__ Develop your action plan.

__ Implement your plan.

Step 6: Assessing your progress

__ Evaluate process.

__ Evaluate impact.

__ Evaluate outcomes.

__ Evaluate your efforts.

  • Formulate evaluation question
  • Structure the evaluation.
  • Make the evaluation as participatory as possible.

__ Link your evaluation to your community assessment and action plan.

__ Share your work.

Step 7: Maintain momentum

__ Remain flexible and dynamic.

__ Combat fatigue and burnout.

__ Sustain the partnership and the work.

__ Keep at it indefinitely.