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The Social Determinants of Health: Our Pathways to Improved Outcomes

The evidence can no longer be ignored.  Attention to the social determinants of health is now at the center of our public discourse on what improves health outcomes. The World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health defines these indicators as the “…conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.”  These factors affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality of life outcomes.

Historically, the social determinants of health received little attention and investment by us and others focused on the health of Georgians. It makes little sense, however, to disproportionately allocate resources downstream, only to allow Georgians receiving health services to return upstream to the social and environmental conditions most responsible for premature morbidity and mortality. If places does matter, as we believe it does, we must focus attention on our communities as a pathway to better health.

Why compromise our investments and the effects of high quality health services and effective health policies by ignoring the causes of the causes? If we do, we will most certainly underperform for the communities we seek to serve.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is clear that if we wish to have the greatest impact on health we must expand our efforts to address more than healthcare — these social determinants that account for 80% of improvements in life expectancy.

There is compelling evidence that social factors adversely affect the health and well being of individuals, families and communities. It is not a matter of “if” but “how” we as a Foundation exercise our responsibility as a catalyst for better health by creating pathways that address the social determinants that impact health.

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