social determinants of health, health disparities, health in all policies, health equity, policymaker


BACKGROUND: We impact our health by “how we manage our affairs in society.”1 The unequal distribution of power, money, and resources creates a collective social milieu with disparities in health between and within countries. Tackling health inequities require addressing the health implications of the “toxic combination of poor social policies and bad politics.”1 But how do U.S. policy makers view the social determinants of health?

OBJECTIVE: Determine U.S. policy makers’ awareness for the social determinants of health, health inequities, and health in all policies; identify the social determinants of health perceived as legislative priorities; list factors identified/perceived by policy makers to facilitate/hinder their intent to act on the social determinants of health.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic review of the literature and analyzed 1374 articles published in English from 2000 to 2014. Of these, 25 articles were included in a qualitative analysis to identify key themes.

RESULTS: Political attention focused on healthcare access and chronic diseases. The literature discussed the need for policy makers to act on the social determinants but lacked empirical studies on effective strategies at the policy level.

CONCLUSION: The complex and protracted nature of social factors and the difficulty of obtaining immediate results within a policy maker’s tenure in office could weaken the political will to act on the social determinants of health. Policy agenda setting and action on social determinants require defining the short- and long-term facets of complex social problems that are significant yet actionable and achievable from the standpoint of a political timeline.

Original Publication Citation

Novilla, M. L. B., Goates, M. C., Calder, S., Ellis, T. Eppich, K., Galvao, L. A., Quintana, N. M., & Mateos, D. (2017, March). Are our policy makers on board? What policy makers think of the social determinants, health disparities, and health in all policies. Presented at the Utah Public Health Association Annual Conference, Park City, UT.

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Life Sciences


Health Science

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor