What are social determinants of health (SDoH)?

The primary purpose of the entire health care industry—doctors and nurses, hospitals, walk-in clinics, insurance companies, and others—is to make sure people stay healthy, and to provide the best possible care when they are not.

But staying healthy isn’t just a matter of seeing our doctor regularly and taking the right medications. Our health is also determined by how we live: what we eat, how much we exercise, even where we live and the extent of our local support systems.

These factors are collectively known as “social determinants of health,” defined by the World Health Organization as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.” Efforts to improve health outcomes have historically focused on medical interventions. However, health care systems are increasingly recognizing that addressing social determinants of health is just as critical to conquering health disparities and improving care outcomes for all.

Social determinants of health by the numbers:

There are six categories of social determinants of health. Each of these factors can impact physical and mental health outcomes.

  • Economic stability
  • Neighborhood and physical environment
  • Education
  • Food
  • Community and social context
  • Healthcare system

Priority Health’s focus on health equity and social determinants of health

At Priority Health we recognize the vital role we play in improving health and health care in Michigan. We are the largest non-profit health care plan in the state, and our commitment has and always will be to our members and the communities we serve.

Visit our community relations page for information on how we are removing barriers to health and wellness through corporate sponsorships, philanthropy, employee volunteer efforts and more. You can also download our report: Health Equity and Social Determinants of Health: Priority Health’s Bold Approach to Improving the Health of Michigan Communities.

Download report

Our programs:

We are committed to driving high-value care through effective and innovative programs that seek to address the most critical social determinants of health.

Press releases:

In the news:

Priority Health team members have spoken with several different media outlets about our unique programs and offerings that directly address health inequities and social determinants of health. Click the links below to learn more.


1 Zonderman et al. (2016) “Race & Poverty Status as a Risk for Overall Mortality in Community Dwelling Middle-aged Adults” JAMA Int. Med

2 Ibid

3 Moser et al. (1984) “Unemployment and Mortality in the OPCS Longitudinal Study” Lancet

4 Holt-Lunstad et al. (2010) “Social Relationships & Mortality” Plos Med 3

5 Journal of Internal Medicine