Social determinants of health

Error message

Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /home/healthnexus/drupal-7.69/includes/

What are the social determinants of health?
Health Nexus resources
Video clips
Other resources

What are the social determinants of health?

Our health depends on many things. We need to take care of our bodies -- eat well, stay active, drink moderately and not smoke. Just as important to our health is to have enough money, an education, proper housing, supportive family and friends and a clean, safe environment.

Some of these determinants are hard to change, such as a person’s genetic background. But some determinants come from the interaction between a person and the society in which they live, such as education, employment, and housing. These social determinants of health play an important role in people’s health and happiness.

The social determinants of health are fundamental to health promotion. Health promotion strategies need to address social factors, as many differences in health are socially created.

Health Nexus resources

Why Am I Poor?

Why am I Poor: First Nations Child Poverty in Ontario,
Best Start Resource Centre | 2012
This report provides a hard look at the lived experiences and outcomes of First Nations children in Ontario who are poor, the factors that drive First Nations child poverty and the ways that service providers can make a difference.

I'm Still Hungry

"I'm Still Hungry" Child and Family Poverty in Ontario,
Best Start Resource Centre | 2010
A practical guide for moving from stigma to empowerment, including a review of the realities of child poverty and promising responses.

Primer to Action: Social Determinants of Health

Primer to Action: Social Determinants of Health
Health Nexus and Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance | 2008

Offers concrete suggestions for change in the community, the workplace and the broader society.

The Case for prevention: Moving Upstream to Improve Health for all Ontarians
Health Nexus (Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse) | 2006

To promote health so that benefits can be sustained means to move from addressing consequences of inequities to addressing their causes. This is sometimes called "moving upstream". This position paper from OPC presents a convincing case for prevention by moving upstream to improve health.

Count Us In!

Literature Review: Count Us In! Inclusion and Homeless Women in Downtown East Toronto
Health Nexus (Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse), Ontario Women’s Health Network, Toronto Christian Resource Centre and Toronto Public Health | 2006


The Making Connections project (2002)

Making Connections project
Health Nexus (Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse) | 2002

Includes a booklet and posters on how social determinants affect health.

Video clips

Let’s Start a Conversation About Health . . . and Not Talk About Health Care at All
Sudbury & District Health Unit | 2011

This video highlights that health is about much more than access to medical care

There is also a video user guide (PDF) available.

Population Health – The New Agenda NCCDH | 2010

Video produced in Vancouver about the multiple determinants of health and the need to work together for policy reform

Other resources


The National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health

Canadian Best Practices Portal

Canadian Best Practices Portal, Public Health Agency of Canada

A compilation of multiple sources of trusted and credible information. The Portal links to resources and solutions to plan programs for promoting health and preventing diseases for populations and communities.

SDOH listserv

Social Determinants of Health listserv
York University

A public email distribution list with 1000+ subscribers. Search the archives or subscribe.


Chronic Poverty Advisory Network

Trends in Income-Related Health Inequalities

Trends in Income-related Health Inequalities in Canada
Canadian Institute for Health Information | 2015

Reports and other interactive tools (in English and French) present the results of a project that examined the health gaps between lower- and higher-income individuals for a number of health indicators over time, by sex and by province.

You Oughta Know

You Oughta Know: Canada's Income Gap
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives | 2011

The income gap between the rich and the rest of us has worsened over the past generation. In 2009 the richest 20% of Canadians took home  44.2% of total after-tax income -- in stark contrast to the poorest 20% whose after-tax income share was only 4.9%.

What did the gap look like in your province? This You Oughta Know slideshow tells the story.

See also the CCPA's Growing Gap project.

PLoS One

Why Are There Social Gradients in Preventative Health Behavior? A Perspective from Behavioral Ecology
Daniel Nettle | 2010


Flagship Report: Combating Poverty and Inequality
UNRISD | 2010

A New Way to Talk About the Social Determinants of Health

A New Way to Talk About the Social Determinants of Health
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation | 2010


  • A Foreword by Jane Lowe: Why We Need a Better Way to Talk About the Social Determinants of Health
  • Peeling the Onion: How We Found a Better Way to Talk About the Social Determinants of Health
  • Choosing Words: Best Practices in the Language and Framing of Social Determinants of Health
  • Finding One Fact to Fight Fiction: The Use of Data and Information to Support—Not Make—Your Case
  • Thinking in Pictures: The Deep Metaphors That Drive How Politicians See Health Disparities (by Elizabeth Carger)
  • Changing Our Frame of Mind: The Role of the Mind, Brain and Emotion in Developing Messages (by Drew Westen, Ph.D.)

Closing the gap in a generation

Final report: Closing the gap in a generation - how?
WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health | 2008

 The Commission makes three main recommendations:

  1. Improve daily living conditions
  2. Tackle the inequitable distribution of power, money, and resources
  3. Measure and understand the problem and assess the impact of action

Conference Board of Canada

Healthy People, Healthy Performance, Healthy Profits: The Case for Business Action on the Socio-Economic Determinants of Health
The Conference Board of Canada | 2008

The Healthy People, Healthy Performance, Healthy Profits report makes the case that employers and businesses should take action on the socio-economic determinants of health because of the benefits such action will have for the health of Canadians and the positive impact it will have on the organization’s performance and profits. In addition to offering examples of successful initiatives already taken by Canadian and international firms, the report provides practical guidance and principles of success to businesses that may take action.





Spent: a game about homelessness

From North Carolina, this game puts you in the shoes of a single parent down to his or her last $1000. The object of the game is to make it through the month.

The Last Straw

The Last Straw! A Board Game on the Social Determinants of Health
Kate Rossiter & Kate Reeve | 2007

This teaching tool promotes discussion about the social determinants of health while helping players build empathy with people who are marginalized. Also available in French and Spanish.