Social Determinants of Health are being discussed more and more in the general media and beyond the realm of health providers. It shows up here, on the Nature Net pages because one of the social determinants of health is “neighborhood and physical environment.”

Social determinants of health are the aspects beyond eating right, exercising, and regularly seeing your doctor that determine how healthy a person tends to be. They include things like economic stability, educational opportunities, access to clean air, water and food, and as mentioned above, the status of our neighborhoods and physical environments.

Now that we are all confined to our immediate surroundings, it’s even more important that we’re aware of the critical role natural and built environments play in our health. Learn more about social determinants of health and check out the resources Nature Net suggests for ways people and communities can positively impact their local environment – and their health!

What Are Social Determinants of Health

  • Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion – Social determinants of health overview: “Our health is also determined in part by access to social and economic opportunities; the resources and supports available in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities; the quality of our schooling; the safety of our workplaces; the cleanliness of our water, food, and air; and the nature of our social interactions and relationships. The conditions in which we live explain in part why some Americans are healthier than others and why Americans more generally are not as healthy as they could be.” 
  • Kaiser Family Foundation – Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants of Health – an Issue Brief that includes three key findings: what are social determinants of health, initiatives to address them, and remaining challenges to addressing them. 

What Can We Do About It?

  • TED Talk by Peter Calthorpe: Seven principles for building better cities – spoiler alert, at least one of his seven principles is more green space. “At the same time that we’re solving for climate change, we’re going to be building cities for three billion people…so much depends on how we shape our cities: not just environmental impacts, but our social well-being, or economic vitality, our sense of community and connectedness.” (14 minutes) 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – this portion of the CDC’s website provides an overview of some of the programs or initiatives the CDC has created to address social determinants of health. Some specific, relevant programs include:
  • “Tactical Urbanists Guide to Getting it Done” – don’t want to wait for policy-makers to improve our local environments? Take a tip from the Tactical Urbanists on ways to “create streets and public spaces that are safe and accessible for everyone” using placemaking and public engagement.