Tackling the Social Determinants of Health: A Central Role for Providers

68 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2017

See all articles by Jessica Mantel

Jessica Mantel

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: April 7, 2017


Americans’ poor health and high health care costs largely stem from social, environmental, and behavioral factors that adversely impact health. Yet, health care providers traditionally have neglected the social determinants of health, focusing instead on medically treating patients’ symptoms. As a result, addressing the social determinants of health has primarily been the domain of government and community groups. Unfortunately, the efforts of the public health and social services sectors are stymied by chronic underfunding, a situation unlikely to change in the current political environment. This article identifies a potential solution to this problem: recent health care reforms that encourage health care providers to move beyond traditional medicine and give greater attention to the social determinants of poor health. This promising development already has improved the health of many individuals. However, this trend represents an incomplete solution to the problem at hand, as providers lack the incentives and capacity to independently address many of the root causes of poor health. Effecting far-reaching changes in the social determinants of health instead will require providers to join forces with other sectors across a broad range of initiatives designed to improve the population’s health.

Keywords: health law, social determinants of health, public health, accountable care communities, population health, community health needs assessment

JEL Classification: I18, I30, I13, I19, K32

Suggested Citation

Mantel, Jessica, Tackling the Social Determinants of Health: A Central Role for Providers (April 7, 2017). 33 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 217 (2017), U of Houston Law Center, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2948717

Jessica Mantel (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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