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Framing Resource

Explaining the Social Determinants of Health

Here are helpful things to keep in mind when you’re trying to explain why some demographic groups experience better or worse health outcomes than others.
May 5, 2023

Public health experts use the term “social determinants of health” to refer to the idea that nonmedical factors such as geography, income, and education have a significant effect on health.

While this is an important idea to get across to the public, there are good reasons to rethink the impulse to use the SDOH label. Communications researchers have found that this term doesn’t make sense to the average person. What’s more, the phrase can even leave mistaken impressions that the “social determinants of health” has something to do with socialism or a belief that people lack free will.