Broadening the Focus: The Need to Address the Social Determinants of Health
This paper, adapted from "Overcoming Obstacles to Health: a Report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the Commission to Build a Healthier America," is intended to lay the foundation for this supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine." After presenting new evidence produced for the commission about the extent of unrealized health potential in the U.S., the authors provide a brief overview of the science supporting a more comprehensive approach to reducing health disparities and improving health overall. They also summarize the case for taking societal action now to address the obstacles to health faced by many Americans. While ensuring that individuals have access to appropriate medical care and information about health-promoting behaviors remains important, they say that effective solutions also will require a broader focus on the contexts that powerfully shape both health behaviors and health itself. While much remains to be learned about which strategies are most effective, current knowledge is sufficient to indicate promising directions.