Social Determinants of Health
Many factors shape the health of individuals and communities. Health care professionals and policy makers have traditionally have focused on health care services as a means to supporting positive health outcomes for our patients. However, the field is expanding to examine the broader social factors that relate to health outcomes. These are called the social determinants of health (SDOHs), which are “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.”
Employment as a Social Determinant of Health
Employment and working conditions are key social determinants of health. We therefore recognize the importance of health care providers’ engagement in expanding our practices to address broader social issues that have an impact on the quality of people’s employment and working conditions.
There are several ways that employment and working conditions influence health. Employment determines a person’s income through the wage rate and the number of hours of work a person is given. Living on a low income means being unable to afford basic necessities for healthy living, including food, stable housing, clothing and medications to treat acute and chronic conditions.
Building on the definition used by the International Labour Organization, by “decent work” we mean work that is productive; delivers an income that provides social protection; ensures security in the workplace; leads to personal development and social integration; allows people to express their concerns, organize, and participate in decision making that affects their work; and provides equality of opportunity across gender, race/ethnicity, age and sexual orientation.