Using Social Determinants of Health


Using social determinants of health to improve community health outcomes is a new approach of public health promotion. It focuses on broader social, economic, and political issues that shape our environment and affect how we grow up, how we live, how we work, and how we manage our illnesses (among other factors) (Elgar & Aitken, 2010). Since these factors affect our health outcomes, this paper uses this correlation to evaluate how population-focused determinants of health challenge traditional approaches for measuring health outcomes. After considering my personal experiences on the health intervention, this paper also proposes an alternative view about population as a health outcome.

How Broader Population-Focused Determinants of Health Challenge Traditional Approaches for Measuring Health Outcomes

Traditional health interventions have always focused on improving health outcomes through curative interventions. However, population-focused determinants of health approach the same problem through a broader understanding of factors that affect health outcomes (Elgar & Aitken, 2010). Therefore, the main difference between population-focused determinants of health and traditional approaches of health is the spectrum of analysis of factors that affect individual health.

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While traditional approaches of health focus on positive interventions for promoting individual health, broader population-focused approaches of health acknowledge the influence of factors outside the health care system on individual health outcomes (Adelman, 2008). This way, population-focused determinants of health challenge traditional approaches of measuring health outcomes by adopting a broader understanding of issues that affect individual health.

Personal Reaction of Population Focused determinants to Measure Health Outcomes

I believe population-focused determinants of health could bridge the health disparity gaps that traditional health interventions have failed to eliminate. This paper has already shown that traditional health interventions mainly focus on promoting good health by focusing on interventions that span across the health care sector alone. However, population-focused interventions include all social, economic, and political factors that affect health outcomes (not necessarily within the health care sector) (Gehlert et al., 2008). By focusing on the health care sector alone, traditional health care interventions have failed to see the “big picture” regarding factors that affect our health today.

This is why such interventions have had a limited efficacy. I believe population-focused determinants of health could solve this problem by supplementing traditional health interventions with a broader understanding of factors that affect health. This way, traditional health interventions would be supported by policy responses, social justice, and other factors that contribute to people’s poor, or good, health outcomes.

Alternative View about Population as a Health Determinant

Undoubtedly, population-focused health interventions could significantly improve people’s health outcomes, in a way that traditional approaches have failed to do. However, the pace at which people expect this “turnaround” to occur is misleading. For example, the World Health Organization (2008) says that most societies could close the health gap in one generational intervention. However, it is difficult to realize this outcome within such a short time because population-focused health outcomes also involve cultural and lifestyle factors that are difficult to eliminate, or change.

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For example, it would take a long time for communities that believe in traditional medicine to take advantage of increased health care access. In an unrelated analytical lens, there is even a greater need to understand that population-focused interventions can only yield positive outcomes if there is coordination (among them). For example, increasing health care access without reducing health care costs is counterproductive because high health care costs would still prevent people from seeking such services. Therefore, it is pertinent to understand the limits of population-focused interventions.


This paper highlights the uniqueness of population-focused health interventions in promoting individual health. It shows that the intervention has a broader perception of health factors than traditional health interventions. This analogy does not mean that traditional health interventions are bad; it highlights the need to expand its scope, to realize better health outcomes. However, it is important to understand that population-focused determinants can only improve health outcomes if there is coordination (among them). Furthermore, societies need to wait for positive health outcomes because such health interventions may take more than a generation to succeed.


Adelman, L. (Executive producer). (2008). Unnatural causes: Episode 1—In sickness and in wealth. California, United States: Public Broadcasting Service.

Elgar, F., & Aitken, N. (2010). Income inequality, trust and homicide in 33 countries. European Journal of Public Health, 21(2), 241–246.

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Gehlert, S., Sohmer, D., Sacks, T., Mininger, C., McClintock, M., & and Olopade, O. (2008).Targeting Health Disparities: A Model Linking Upstream Determinants To Downstream Interventions. Health Affairs, 27(2), 339-349.

World Health Organization. (2008). Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity Through Action on the Social Determinants of Health. Web.

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