Social determinants of health refer to the various factors that impact an individual’s access to and maintenance of good health. These determinants encompass biological, environmental, social, and economic factors that can either promote or hinder health outcomes (Green, 2018). For instance, individuals residing in low socioeconomic areas often face barriers in obtaining fresh and nutritious food, and as a result, they may rely on fast food chains for their meals. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2004) found that low-income areas had 2.5 times more fast-food chains compared to more affluent areas. This disparity in access to healthy food options puts individuals in low-income areas, particularly minorities, at a higher risk of obesity and comorbidities such as type II diabetes and hypertension.
Despite the passage of time since the publication of the study, its findings remain relevant. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), children and adolescents in low-income households are still more likely to be obese compared to their higher-income counterparts. This example illustrates how social determinants of health can significantly contribute to the development of diseases. A child who grows up with poor dietary habits is less likely to change their eating patterns in adulthood, which can result in serious health conditions.
Furthermore, social determinants of health also play a role in the spread of communicable diseases. Factors such as crowding, poor sanitation, lack of access to clean water, and limited availability of healthcare services all contribute to the transmission of infectious diseases (Green, 2018). The chain model, also known as the chain of infection, illustrates the process by which communicable diseases are transmitted. It starts with an infectious organism and describes how the organism reproduces and spreads through various modes such as contact, droplets, or contaminated surfaces.
As a nurse caring for individuals with communicable diseases, there are various steps that can be taken to break the link within the communicable disease chain. One of the most simplistic yet effective interventions is proper handwashing. Regular and thorough hand hygiene, using soap and water or hand sanitizer, can significantly reduce the transmission of infectious organisms. Additionally, wiping down surfaces with appropriate disinfectants, placing the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) outside the patient’s room, and clustering care to minimize excessive time spent in the patient’s room are all strategies that can contribute to halting the transmission phase of the chain model.
In conclusion, social determinants of health encompass various factors that influence an individual’s ability to access and maintain good health. These determinants contribute to the development of diseases, as seen in the example of low-income areas with limited access to healthy food options leading to higher rates of obesity and comorbidities. The communicable disease chain model represents the process by which infectious diseases are transmitted and emphasizes the importance of interventions such as hand hygiene, surface disinfection, appropriate use of PPE, and clustering care to break the link in the chain of infection. Nurses play a crucial role in implementing these measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.