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A Holistic Approach: Making Social Determinants a True Vital Sign

Publication date

Friday, January 16, 2015

Recently, TEDMED hosted a Google Hangout to examine the impact of poverty on health—specifically how health professionals can incorporate social determinants of health into everyday clinical encounters.  To explore this issue, Philadelphia NPR Senior Health Reporter Taunya English moderated a diverse panel  of experts including Dr. Yolande Pengetnze of the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation; Dr. Pedro Greer, Chair of Florida International University Medical School’s Department of Humanities, Health and Society; Marc Nivet of the Association of American Medical Colleges; and Manmeet Kaur of City Health Works .

During the hour-long conversation, panelists discussed why social determinants of health are critical to healthcare and why it is necessary for healthcare practitioners to go beyond assessing only biological health. They also talked about why social factors are not considered “vital signs” and why it is important to ensure future healthcare providers are trained to also address social determinants.

Each panelist offered their perspective to the discussion, but all emphasized the importance of:

  1. Developing multidisciplinary teams to comprehensively address the wide range of problems individuals face that impact their health.
  2. Educating clinicians on taking “social-centric” approaches to healthcare rather than strictly “medical-centric” approaches.
  3. Advocating and creating “health in all policies” approaches to policy formation and decision making.

If you missed the discussion, watch the Google Hangout here.

For more information on addressing social determinants of health, check out:

Visit What Works for Health to view policies and programs to help improve social and economic factors in your community.