World Health Day: Addressing the Social Determinants of Health
April 6, 2021 / Corporate Wellness
Everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, or political or religious beliefs, deserves to have equal and fair access to good health. Yet, so many individuals live and work in conditions that inhibit them from achieving optimal physical, mental, social, and financial health. The events of 2020 – from COVID-19 to widespread racial injustice incidents – have shown us just how much work needs to attain global health equity.
It’s time for a fairer, healthier world.
Launched in 1950 by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Health Day (April 7th) has drawn attention to the most urgent global health concerns year after year. In 2021, WHO has appropriately chosen to highlight the glaring health inequities that exist, urging everyone to come together to address the social determinants of health that leave so many people without adequate healthcare, education, social support systems, and the means to earn a livable wage.
We’ve said before that health equity begins in the workplace. As many organizations reexamine their workplace policies and practices to ensure their culture centers around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), adopting the mission of this year’s World Health Day theme is a natural next step.
If your organization has undertaken the task of making your employees more aware of the systemic racism, unconscious bias, and microaggressions that drive inequity both in and outside of the workplace, that’s a great start! Continuing to inform your people about these structural issues and making necessary changes within your organizational culture will inspire progress within your local community while helping your employees understand the broader (and largely preventable) issues stemming from the social determinants of health.
The social determinants of health, developed through the conditions in which we live, socialize, work, learn and grow, are a global issue with more significant implications than the COVID-19 health disparities we’ve seen in the past year. Malaria, HIV, Tuberculosis, cholera, polio, measles, Zika virus, and other infectious diseases are major concerns for impoverished countries and communities around the world.
Spreading awareness is the initial phase of local and global change. Send a company-wide email or launch a campaign in your digital wellbeing app to get employees involved in learning about these global health inequities. Allow employees to ask questions and offer additional resources to empower them to learn more about these critical issues. Find ways to give back to your local community or support a global non-profit organization to eliminate these health disparities. Keep the momentum going in the workplace by continuing to embed DEI into your organization’s practices, policies, and values. Although these may feel like small actions, they can lead to meaningful results over time.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few great resources to help you and your employees better understand the impact of the social determinants of health and what needs to change for health equity to become a reality:
- World Health Organization: World Health Day 2021
- World Health Organization: Social Determinants of Health
- CDC: World Health Day Toolkit
- Social Determinants of Health in the United States: Addressing Major Health Inequality Trends for the Nation, 1935-2016
- The Impact of the Social Determinants of Health on Physical and Mental Wellbeing
- Dr. Dexter Shurney: Lifestyle as Medicine and the Social Determinants of Health
- Dr. Aletha Maybank: The Intersection of Wellbeing and Diversity in the Workplace
- The “E“ (Equity) in DEI: Why Diversity and Inclusion Can’t Happen Without It
- The Path Towards Health Equity: An Interview with Dr. Jessica Isom