Examining the Social Determinants of Health: Measures, Evidence, and Policy Solutions

Despite significant investments to improve access to high-quality health care, health inequities in the United States persist by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, as well as by economic and community level factors such as geographic location, poverty status, and employment. While opportunities to advance health equity through clinical care continue to be important, addressing the ways in which SDOH increase or decrease the risk of poor health outcomes is critical to improving the nation’s health and wellbeing. Examining the root causes of SDOH is also critical for developing measures, evaluating data sources, assessing evidence and for formulating policy responses. This briefing: 1) Defined and evaluated the differences between SDOH, social drivers of health, social needs, and social risk factors; 2) Assessed the past and current SDOH policy landscape including metrics development and data source evaluation; 3) Discussed health care payor, provider, and community-based efforts; and 4) Outlined potential policy solutions at the federal, state, and local levels.


  • Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., M.Phil., Chief Health Officer, Elevance Health
  • Bryant Cameron Webb, M.D., J.D., Senior Advisor, White House COVID-19 Response Team
  • Melinda Dutton, J.D., Partner, Manatt Health
  • Ruqaiijah Yearby, J.D., MPH, Co-Founder & Faculty Affiliate, Institute for Healing Justice & Equity; Kara J. Trott Professor in Health Law, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University
  • Rachel Nuzum, MPH, Vice President, Federal and State Health Policy, Commonwealth Fund (moderator)

This event was made possible with support from the Commonwealth Fund.