A New Way to Talk about the Social Determinants of Health

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The social determinants of health have long been well-established in academic circles, and a subject of considerable study. At the same time, it has also been challenging to translate the concept in a way that effectively communicates how factors such as education, income and housing affect our health, and why our nation overall is not as healthy as it could be.

In 2006, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) engaged Olson Zaltman Associates and Public Opinion Strategies to support an in-depth research and communications project focused on one primary question: How can we help expand views about health in America to include how our health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play?Insights from this research provided a framework for discussion and outreach related to multiple issues addressed by the RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America and resulted in the publication of this guide, A New Way to Talk About the Social Determinants of Health.

The guide discusses why we need a better way to talk about the social determinants of health and offers best practices to facilitate conversations around the concept.

This guide from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers best practices for engaging with different audiences around the concept of social determinants of health and their role in building safe and healthy communities. The guide offers specific strategies and buzzwords/phrases to employ and to avoid with different audiences across the political spectrum. It also includes an overview of key research findings from the project and the methodology that was employed.


The guide and additional information on the social determinants of health are available from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s website.


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