Health Disparities & Social Determinants of Health (SDOH)

As patients enter the healthcare system, primary care is typically their first stop. Because of this, primary care clinicians have a unique opportunity to develop relationships with patients and communities. This also enables them to get a glimpse of the hardships that a particular patient or group of patients is dealing with and see how that can affect their overall well-being. As the healthcare system, and primary care in particular, shifts away from a transactional system, to one more focused on high quality, comprehensive care, these outside factors that often play a significant role in patients’ lives must be accounted for. 


The CDC defines health disparities as preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations. It defines the social determinants of health as conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play. While several of these factors or locations fall out of the traditional sphere of primary care, a well-organized and coordinated primary care team should have the resources to help patients beyond their medical needs. 


Recommendations to the IHS from the Rural Maternal Safety Meeting | January 2016
Indian Health Disparities | April 2018
Importance of Social Determinants of Health and Cultural Awareness in the Delivery of Reproductive Health Care | January 2018
Journal of General Internal Medicine | February 2015
As practices transform towards the PCMH model, it is important for clinicians to be trained in a more person- and family-centered manner of care. This ensures that patients are getting the right care at the right time, thus improving the patient experience while preventing unnecessary costs.
Rural Health Information Hub | June 2017
This resource explores disparities in access to healthcare for rural communities. It includes guides to policy changes that will address these barriers in access to care. Primary care providers act as a key access point for these patients and primary care practices will be critical in improving access for these communities.
Georgetown University Nursing | September 2018
American Psychological Association | , Center for Psychology and Health | September 2018
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