One would think the social determinants of health (SDOH) were positive aspects about life in the US that contributed in a positive way to living a safe and healthy life. That is, if you were looking at the CDC website for the Social Determinants of Health.

Here’s the language on the CDC’s website to describe the SDOH: “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.”

It’s not just the definition that is concerning, but also the images.

Take a look at the following photos and ask yourself, do any of photos describe or depict the social forces placing people at risk of premature death, disease, illness or injury?


In all fairness, after a few more clicks-on the About page, the CDC does go on to describe the WHO’s definition of the SDOH as: “The World Health Organization also provides a definition of SDOH. SDOH as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national, and local levels. They state SDOH are mostly responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries.”

The most important part of this statement is attributed to the WHO and removes any connection between the CDC’s position and the WHO’s positions.

Yet, there is no denying that the SDOH are not positive aspects of our lives, environment or policy. On the contrary, SDOH are various factors that contribute to poor health outcomes.

Here is a brief list from the Kaiser Family Foundation:

If we re going to make real progress to improve health and health outcomes, we must be clear on what the SDOH.

Photo Credit: CDC Social Determinants of Health.