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Evaluating Social Determinants of Health

Understanding social determinants of health (SDoH) and how they inform an individual’s care is more important than ever. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), SDoH are “the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.”

Since people cannot control many aspects of SDoH, criticizing individuals for poor health or applauding them for good health is misguided. Income, social status, genetics, education, physical environment, gender, access to health services and social support networks, among other factors, all influence people’s health.

The online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program from St. Cloud State University can prepare nurses to help transform healthcare. Designed to develop compassionate and knowledgeable nurses, this online program is flexible and convenient for working RNs.

The Importance of Social Determinants of Health

According to a Health Affairs article, the U.S. spends considerably more on healthcare than social services, despite the evidence that SDoH impact numerous health outcomes, especially with low-income populations. SDOH have come to the forefront of the wellness conversation in the U.S. because individuals with unmet basic needs are more likely to struggle with chronic health conditions and medical emergencies.

Because of this, healthcare providers are becoming increasingly intent on resolving patients’ unfulfilled social needs. One of the first steps nurses and healthcare providers should take regarding SDoH is understanding the social factors of the community.

Numerous tools and resources are available to recognize how SDoH affect a community. These can include mapping tools, indices and measures to evaluate the social situations in a specific geographical location. For example, the Rural Health Information Hub includes such mapping tools as the Area Deprivation Index, National Equity Atlas and the Opportunity Index.

In addition, specialized screening tools are available for nurses providing the necessary holistic care for patients. The Health-Related Social Needs (HRSN) Screening Tool, the PRAPARE Implementation and Action Toolkit and the HealthBegins screening tool can inspire conversations among healthcare providers to incorporate SDoH data to optimize patient care.

SDoH have a critical influence on health inequities. In different locations with varying income levels, one fact remains consistent: The lower the socioeconomic status of a population, the worse that community’s overall health. Addressing SDoH is vital for improving health outcomes and minimizing health inequities for individuals and groups. Resources that enhance the quality of life for communities and individuals are crucial building blocks toward improving population health. Some examples of these resources include access to resources like healthy foods, local healthcare services, education, affordable and safe housing, public safety and local environments free of toxic materials.

Prepare to Deliver Quality Care With an Online RN to BSN Degree

St. Cloud State University’s online RN to BSN program prepares students who can incorporate clinical reasoning with holistic, safe, patient-centered care to diverse populations in various settings. The program’s curriculum prioritizes holistic care that considers all elements of a patient’s background. Relevant courses include Cross-Cultural Nursing and Global Health and Introduction to Population Health.

In addition, students in this online degree program will learn how to apply leadership and management concepts in quality care delivery, understand how the effective use of technology can improve healthcare, and utilize communication techniques and collaborative skills to facilitate safe, quality health outcomes.

Learn more about St. Cloud State University’s online RN to BSN program.

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