Health begins where we live, work, learn, and play — long before we visit the doctor’s office or walk in our local pharmacies. Our health is largely determined by the social, economic, cultural, and physical environments we live in — everything from where we work and live to our level of education and our access to healthy food and water.

These conditions are known as social determinants of health: the social and economic resources — such as housing, education, food access, and transportation — that support health and can determine length and quality of life. Too often, access to these health-determining resources remains outside of individuals’ control. Many health inequities experienced by communities of color, low-income individuals, and other vulnerable populations are due to the lack of appropriate distribution of social resources, rooted in a history of discrimination at the individual, institutional, and structural levels.

These social and economic factors have a significant impact on individual and community-level health. The image below shows a range of factors that impact health:

social economic political factors influencing health