Oxford Executive Director Paul Brankin recently chaired an online seminar that explored the impact of social determinants on healthcare experience and health outcomes. The seminar, titled ‘If social determinants of health are so important, shouldn’t we ask patients about them?’ was part of Green Templeton College’s (GTC) Health and Care Studies seminar series.
Paul, who is a Fellow of GTC, was joined by speakers Professor Sue Ziebland (below), Professor of Medical Sociology and Co-Director of the Medical Sociology & Health Experiences Research Group at the Nuffield Department of Primary Healthcare Sciences, and Governing Body Fellow of GTC, and Dr Andrew Moscrop, a GP working in a health centre for people who are homeless in Oxford. Fifty early career healthcare workers and clinicians tuned in.
The COVID pandemic has highlighted health inequalities in England. COVID mortality rates for people living in deprived areas have been more than double those of people in more affluent areas. But unequal health outcomes have been worsening for decades. The difference in life expectancy between men in the poorest and wealthiest parts of the country has been widening steadily and there is now a gap of ten years. Put simply, the poorer someone is, the poorer their health is likely to be, and, the poorer their experience of NHS care is likely to be too. For specialist care within hospitals, for example, poorer people have less access, longer wait times, and worse outcomes.
It is known that these unequal health outcomes and experiences of healthcare are significantly influenced by social factors or ‘social determinants of health’, including education, employment, housing, wealth, and income. The seminar focused on why, despite their clear relevance to people’s health and healthcare experiences, social health determinants are not routinely enquired about or documented in clinical settings and what this means for understanding health inequalities, for ensuring a fair healthcare system, and what relevance it may have to individual patient care.
Paul says, “‘While extensive research has confirmed that education, housing and wealth are the key determinants of life expectancy, they play little part in healthcare delivery in the NHS. This seminar explored how clinicians might change this and improve patient care.’”