Social and Environmental Determinants of Health- The Social Lens

Jennifer Singh
Jennifer Singh
Assistant Professor

How would you define this BIG IDEA?

Social determinants of health (as opposed to biological determinants of health) are social and economic factors that shape whether a person (or a population) gets sick or stays healthy. These social factors consists of complex, integrated, and overlapping social structures and economic systems that shape health inequalities evident in our local, national, and global communities. Examples include: living and working conditions, public health infrastructures and legislation, social services, economic stability, neighborhood safety, access to healthcare, social networks of support, and social relationships to name a few. From a sociological perspective, social determinants of health must take into account historical, cultural, structural, and critical factors to thoroughly understand why health disparities exists based on intersectional inequalities such as race, social class, and gender. Untangling this complexity in necessary in order to inform the types of upstream, primary, or structural interventions that are needed to address health inequalities.

How does this BIG IDEA about sustainable communities play out in your work?​

My current research is in collaboration with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding Autism Clinic, which operates three days a month and serves primarily Medicaid and uninsured patients. The clinic was started based on the needs of the community who did not have access to early child developmental evaluations and services. In collaboration with Dr. Leslie Rubin, the founder of the clinic, I am conducting a quality of care survey and in-depth interviews with caregivers who receive services at the clinic. The goal is to identify multi-level barriers to referrals, diagnosis, and subsequent autism services experienced by families who attend the clinic.  Multi-level barriers include: individual (e.g., experiences with discrimination, trust in providers, language barriers), institutional (e.g., community resources/deficits, social networks of support, access to knowledge and resources), and structural (e.g., immigrant and/or poverty status, health and/or educational policies that affect underserved communities, racial segregation). A comprehensive understanding of the barriers to autism diagnosis and services will be used to improve the quality of care offered by the clinic through interventions that address upstream social factors inhibiting access to needed autism services.

Learn More

Jennifer Singh's website 

Healthy People 2020 Social Determinants of Health Website

Kaiser Family Foundation: Beyond Healthcare - Social Determinants of Health