• Julie Kosteas Baker

DO take it personal

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

If you're in the healthcare industry, you know of one of the biggest buzz phrases: "social determinants of health". These are socioeconomic constructs that shape one's ability to live a healthy life. They consist of neighborhood and built environment; economic stability; education (quality and level of attainment); social and community context; and healthcare access and quality. These determinants are largely out of one's control, yet are up to 40% responsible for your health and wellbeing. (Whereas genetics are only responsible for less than 20%.)

But before you throw in the proverbial towel and chalk up your health to the cards you were dealt, know that the other 40%+ is ALL ON YOU! Your individual health behaviors play a major role in your health and quality of life. There are two major health behavior categories: what you practice and what you believe/ your affect.

Think of what you practice as physical things:

balanced diet and adequate nutrition

moderate amounts of physical activity

quality and sufficient quantity of sleep

responsible sexual activity

refrain from illicit drug use and substance abuse

positive coping mechanisms

Think of what you believe as how you perceive yourself and others:


positive/optimistic outlook




Some health professionals have begun to coin the psychological portion of these individual health behaviors as "personal determinants of health". I would take it a step further and recognize one's attitude and outlook are just as instrumental to one's health and wellbeing as their physical practice - the most obvious reason being that high self-efficacy (or self-confidence) and motivation are necessary to perform and sustain the physical tasks associated with good health practice - the less obvious reason being that our disposition towards ourselves (and others) has a direct impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. (Remember my blog on Negative Nancy?)

So, I encourage you to take it personal. It is your responsibility to practice the behaviors that keep you healthy. Maybe some of those physical behaviors come easier to you, but you need to work on your psychological health. (Affirmations, anyone?) Or maybe you're feeling highly motivated, but don't know what constitutes "good" health practice. (I'm happy to help here *wink*) Understanding your personal health behavior strengths and weaknesses is a great first step.

As for the social determinants of health, feel free to take those personal, too! Health insurers and health systems have invested billions of dollars in this space and partnered with the government and community organizations to close the myriad of inequity gaps; and will only continue to add and/or pivot resources to these determinants. You can also volunteer your time, money, and advocacy efforts to this space. Food insecurity and loneliness are two of the most prominent predictors poor health. To combat food insecurity, look for food banks and "food as thy medicine" programs that are accepting volunteers. To decrease loneliness, look to intergenerational and "adopt a buddy" programs where you can volunteer your time to spend time with someone who lives alone or is socially isolated. (There are plenty of safe, virtual programs while we maintain social distancing.)

In good health,

#personaldeterminants #pdoh #socialdeterminants #sdoh


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