According to the research social determinants of health are said to be the social and economic conditions which are prevailing in a certain region, helping to determine and result in the type of health that affects the individuals of this area. These determinants are of vital importance because research has proven that all major diseases existing in the world today are a direct consequence of a series of interacting exposures that can result in the increase or decrease of health risks. The World Health Organization claims social determinants to be the conditions under which individuals live, grow and age (WHO). There is a long list provided by the WHO of the social determinants necessary to influence the well-being and health of every individual. While some parts of this list are far from being social influences, many do indeed fall within the list of determinants in society that affect its individuals. This list includes: income, education or more specifically health literacy, employment, physical environment, child development, biology, gender and culture. Thus, as proven, some factors are a far cry from what can be considered as social determinants to the prevailing health system today. Yet aspects like housing: physical environment, education: health literacy and culture can play a tremendous role in determining the kind of health services available. Additional aspects of social determinants to health are the early life of an individual, their working conditions, income distribution and food security. (The Social Determinants of Health).
The importance of these social determinants is not one that is lost on everyone. Individual writers like Raphael speak of the social determinants as responsible for the economic and social conditions that assist in shaping the health of not just individuals but also communities and jurisdictions. He defines social determinants as responsible for determining the degree to which their resources: physical, personal and societal can satisfy their needs and help cope with the surrounding environment.
To better understand the part played by social determinants it is necessary to understand how these determinants can affect the health and causes diseases. Research has been carried out that determines a cultural/behavioral or materialistic/structuralist approach to understanding the mechanisms that influence this process (Townsend, Davidson & Whitehead).
The cultural/behavioral theme concentrates on the individual's choices and behavior. For instance, it can include the amount of tobacco or alcohol in their diet However, the criticism to this theory is that all behavior is dependant on the material conditions of any individual. This type of theme can provide very little assistance in determining the rates of incidence and deaths from various diseases. Despite this, many countries like Canada continue to focus on the role an individual's life-style plays in their attempts to recognize methods to prevent diseases (Raphael 2008).
A better approach is the materialistic/structuralist approach which concentrates on the material aspects of human life: amenities, working conditions, quality of food and housing conditions. The structuralist approach focuses on three ideas: materialist, neo-materialist and psychosocial. Materialist speaks of how living conditions are the determining forces for health. Neo-materialist discusses how these materialist conditions occur and psychosocial discuss the comparisons drawn by individuals between themselves and others and how these affect their lives. This theory speaks of the socio-economic conditions that help determine an individual's health. This includes the over-all wealth of the nation this individual belongs to. It's a powerful indicator also because the lifespan of an individual or the distribution of wealth can be