Health is not strictly influenced by our individual behaviors, such as our diet, the frequency of our physical activities or our consumption of alcohol or tobacco. There are more general factors which, without necessarily being the direct causes of health problems, nevertheless influence them in a significant way. These determinants include income, education, employment, working conditions, housing, social exclusion, the social safety net and health services. It is important to be aware of the influence of these social determinants, in order to improve the effectiveness of our health interventions. Thus, rather than targeting only the behaviors of individuals as targets for change, it is also necessary to ensure that individuals have the living conditions favorable to the adoption of health-promoting behaviors. For example, it is ineffective to ask people to eat more than five servings of fruits and vegetables daily if they do not have enough money to buy them or if their neighborhood has no place to buy them. Recognizing the multiple determinants of health is essential to improve the physical, psychological and social health of vulnerable populations. It is a matter of social justice.
To know more :
- Gouvernement du Québec (2012). La santé et ses déterminants. Mieux comprendre pour mieux agir. Gouvernement du Québec. – in French
- Mikkonen J, Raphael D. (2011). Social Determinants of Health : The Canadian Facts. Toronto : York University School of Health Policy and Management.
- World Health Organization (2008). Closing the gap in a generation – Health equity through action on the social determinants of health.
Other definitions :