WASHINGTON, DC - Improving health is too multifaceted to be left solely in the hands of those working in the health sector alone, according to the latest Healthy People 2020 Objectives for the Nation. A recent shift in national health priorities has led Healthy People, a program that sets the national agenda for health promotion and disease prevention, to add 'social determinants' into its 2020 goals.
Two papers published in the December issue of the journal Health Education & Behavior (HE&B), published by the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), examine the history of the Healthy People Objectives and the new integration of social determinants in Healthy People 2020.
In both papers, the authors examine the effects of poverty, education and social structure on health and conclude that the country's compass for health improvement must point beyond the diseases to address their root causes and forge new public and private health partnerships.
In their article, "Healthy People: A 2020 Vision for the Social Determinants Approach," U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, and colleagues outline the need for collective effort and an expanded way of thinking to make true impacts on public health. "Health starts where people live, labor, learn, play and pray. The social determinants approach makes the healthier choice the easier choice for all people throughout the life span."
Addressing social determinants, "could catalyze and broaden healthier public policies and private sector practices outside of what had been traditionally considered the public health domain," write the authors.
In an accompanying commentary, Lawrence W. Green, DrPH, of the University of California at San Francisco and John P. Allegrante, PhD, of Columbia University and editor-in-chief of HE&B, applaud the inclusion of social determinants in Healthy People 2020. They also outline the 40-year history, perspective and skills that the health education profession brings to the table in addressing social determinants.
Green and Allegrante point with pride to health education's pioneer work in social determinants through processes of community mobilization, policy advocacy, capacity building and equity. "The added value we were prepared to bring to the field of public health (in the 1960s and 70s) was a focus on populations and communities with an ecological perspective, their organization and mobilization for social change."
To make future progress in tackling the social determinants, Green and Allegrante call for systems thinking and for a new metric of health that goes beyond addressing the state of individual health and risk factors to also account the issues of context.
Read more about the history of Healthy People and the inclusion of social determinants in health education in both articles. They are available free in Health Education & Behavior for the next 45 days at:
"Healthy People: A 2020 Vision for the Social Determinants Approach" by Dr. Howard K. Koh, Julie J. Piotrowski, Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika, and Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding: http://heb.
"Healthy People 1980-2020: Raising the Ante Decennially or Just the Name From Public Health Education to Health Promotion to Social Determinants?" by Dr. Lawrence W. Green and Dr. John P. Allegrante: http://heb.
About Health Education & Behavior (HE&B)
HE&B is a peer-reviewed bi-monthly journal that provides empirical research, case studies, program evaluations, literature reviews, and discussions of theories of health behavior and health status, as well as strategies to improve social and behavioral health. http://heb.
The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) is a non-profit professional organization founded in 1950 to provide global leadership to the profession of health education and health promotion and to promote the health of society. SOPHE's 4,000 national, international and chapter members work in various public and private organizations to advance health education theory and research, develop disease prevention and health promotion programs, and promote public policies conducive to health. For more information, go to http://www.
SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology, and medicine. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, and Washington DC. http://www.