Evaluating Social Determinants of Health

In recent years, the importance of understanding social determinants of health (SDoH) and how they impact an individual’s care has grown. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), social determinants of health are “the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.”

Since people are unlikely to directly control many aspects of SDoH, criticizing individuals for their poor health or applauding them for their good health is misguided. Income, social status, genetics, education, physical environment, gender and access to health services and social support networks, among other factors, all influence people’s health.

The online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program from Mississippi College can elevate the capabilities of a nursing leader to help transform healthcare. Designed to develop compassionate and knowledgeable nurse leaders, this online program is flexible and convenient for the working registered nurse.

The Importance of Social Determinants of Health

According to the Center for Health Care Strategies, the United States spends considerably more on healthcare than on social services, despite the evidence that SDoH impact numerous health outcomes, especially with low-income populations. Social determinants of health have come to the forefront of the wellness conversation in the United States because individuals with unmet basic needs are more likely to struggle with chronic health conditions and manage health emergencies.

Because of this, healthcare providers are becoming increasingly intent on handling patients’ unfulfilled social needs. One of the first steps that nurses and healthcare providers should take regarding addressing social determinants of health is understanding the social factors of the community.

Numerous tools and resources are available to recognize how SDoH impact a community. These can include mapping tools, indices and measures to evaluate the social situations in a specific geographical location. For example, the Rural Health Information Hub includes such mapping tools as the Area Deprivation Index, National Equity Atlas and the Opportunity Index.

In addition, there are specialized screening tools available to nurses to provide the necessary holistic care for patients. The Health-Related Social Needs (HRSN) Screening Tool, the PRAPARE Implementation and Action Toolkit and the HealthBegins screening tool can inspire conversations among healthcare providers to incorporate SDoH data to provide greater patient care.

SDoH have a critical impact on health inequities. In different locations with varying income levels, one fact remains consistent: the lower the socioeconomic status of a population, the worse that community’s overall health. Addressing SDoH is vital for improving health outcomes and minimizing health inequities for individuals and groups. Resources that enhance the quality of life for communities and individuals have a remarkable influence on population health. Some examples of these resources include access to resources like healthy foods, local healthcare services, education, affordable and safe housing, public safety and local environments free of toxic materials.

Next Steps

Mississippi College’s online RN to BSN program prepares students who can incorporate clinical reasoning with holistic, safe and patient-centered care to diverse populations in various settings. The program’s curriculum prioritizes holistic care that considers all elements of a patient’s background. Relevant courses include those titled Transcultural Patterns of Health Care and Community Health Nursing.

In addition, students in this online degree program will learn how to apply leadership and management concepts in the delivery of quality care services, understand how the effective use of technology and informatics can improve healthcare and utilize communication techniques and collaborative skills to facilitate safe, quality health outcomes.

Learn more about Mississippi College’s online RN to BSN program.

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