Equity, Social Determinants of Health, & Health Outcomes: What do we do now?


So much of health is determined outside of the doctor’s office. More than 80 percent of modifiable contributors to healthy outcomes are determined by Social Determinants of Health, meaning health-related behaviors, socioeconomic, and environmental factors, rather than medical care. You can see our post about a poster we made on the topic, here.

Once we become aware of this statistic, the difference between equality and equity, implicit bias, and white privilege it can feel overwhelming. Couple that with the reality our country’s history continues to have huge impacts on health outcomes today, our awakening can cause embarrassment, emotional confusion, discomfort, and frustration about what to do next.

We are not alone.

From political activists, to policy makers; community organizations to health care systems, more experts and institutions are coming together to increase efforts that improve health outcomes through the lens of health inequities.

Beginning thinking about health equity:

A webinar series by National Institute for Children’s Health Equity (NICHQ) covers material that applies to and affects everyone. If some of this is new to you or if you’d like a review, you may want to start with the first webinar in the series, Health Equity: Start Where You Are which offers definitions, background information, and practical strategies for moving forward, such as “Lean in and Learn”.

Successful programs & lessons learned:

Moving the Needle on Health Equity: Successful Programs and Lessons Learned is the second webinar in the series. Explains different types of racism, including the history and status of “Infant Mortality”.  The course shows the connection between disparities of infant mortality rates between black and white babies, racial inequity and social injustice, and our communal responsibility.

Combatting racism in health systems:

From Awareness to Action: Combating Racism in Health Systems, the most recent webinar, offers powerful real-life examples of systems of oppression. White supremacy and black resilience are explained and framed to offer opportunities for both awareness and action. Definitions and residual impact of three types of systems of oppression are explained: Savior-Designed Systems, Ally-Designed Systems, and Equity-Empowered Systems. Critical questions to ask of a system design and to spur action are offered.

More resources:

Camera Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD Allegories on “race” and racism” TedxEmory (20- minute video)

Charles Johnston lost his wife Kira during what was supposed to be a routine Cesarean section. CNN’s Robyn Curnow takes a look at the rising death rates among mothers during childbirth in the US. (4.20-min CNN video)

Levels of Racism: A Theoretical Framework and a Gardener’s Tale, Jones, Camara. Am J Public Health, 2000


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