How to write an Essay Applying Social Determinants of Health

Written by Brandon L.
May 21, 202416 min read

As governments worldwide struggle to find solutions to health disparities, it is becoming clear that medicine alone is not the solution. Social determinants of health (SDOH) greatly influence the health and well-being of individuals and the community. Factors like economic stability, neighborhoods, access to health care, etc., affect and shape the health of everyone within a community. Understanding these determinants and addressing them is one way of ensuring health equity.

Writing a social determinants of health essay requires a comprehensive understanding of all the determinants, their intricate relationships, and their implications. This essay should also illuminate all issues affecting health and the importance of addressing such issues to achieve health equity.

In this guide, our nursing writers will help you understand SDOH and how to write social determinants of health essay.

What are the Social Determinants of Health?

Social determinants of health, also known as SDOH, refer to the environmental conditions that influence a person’s health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines SDOH as all non-medical factors that influence the health outcomes of individuals. They are conditions in which people are born, grow, work, interact, age, and other wider forces that affect their daily lives.

SDOH significantly influences health inequalities compared to any other issue, including access to healthcare services. For instance, unemployment or job insecurity leads to poor health by increasing stress and reducing access to healthcare and healthy living conditions due to financial difficulties. Moreover, prolonged unemployment exacerbates mental health issues like depression, further worsening health problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), addressing SDOH issues accelerates the progress needed to establish a world where people attain the highest level of health.

What are the five Social Determinants of Health?

The SDOH can be grouped into five different categories:

Addressing all social determinants of health is key to improving people's health.

Economic Stability

Economic stability is the absence of factors that result in major fluctuations in a nation's smooth running and growth. It is characterized by fluctuating income, high debt, job insecurity, lack of support, lack of employment, unpredictable market conditions, etc.

People with steady jobs and finances are more likely to live healthy lives because they can afford nutritious foods. Money allows people to meet all their basic needs, including good food, proper housing, and quality healthcare. Meeting these needs is essential for personal and community well-being.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, the national poverty rate is at 11.5% or 37.9

A country that is facing economic instability will have its people suffering from high-stress levels, anxiety, depression, and an increased risk of suicide cases. This instability results in increased access to healthy foods, good healthcare, and safe housing, thus worsening overall health.

What's more, economically stable individuals generally experience better health outcomes than those from poor backgrounds. This is because they can afford resources such as medications, affordable health coverage, etc, that protect and improve their health.


Education is a significant social determinant of health. It shapes and changes people's lives by equipping them with the right skills necessary to lift them out of poverty. People who can access high-quality education have the power to change their lives by eating healthy and accessing quality healthcare.

According to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Education, 130 million people in America lack basic literacy skills. This means they are not able to read and understand simple text. This makes it harder to complete hospital tests, follow written instructions or identify expiration dates of prescription medication.

Older people, those with low cognitive abilities, low socioeconomic status, and those with limited English proficiency have low health literacy.

For example, a person who has gone to school and acquired quality education can read about issues affecting their health and make the right choices. Alternatively, a person with less formal education cannot distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy information.

Lack of education or the lowest level of education is linked to lower income, which is, in turn, linked to poor health. By adopting education interventions, governments can help improve inequalities and individuals' health outcomes.

Improving health literacy helps eliminate barriers to understanding crucial information about

Social and Community Context

Social and community context refers to the environments in which people live, work, worship, and interact. It includes relationships among people and the networks they create within institutions.

The social and community context is divided into two parts: social networks and social support. Social networks encompass interpersonal social relationships, while social support is about the assistance that a person can receive from their social networks.

Understanding social and community context is essential to solving health disparities.

The social and community context includes essential issues such as civic participation, community cohesion, discrimination, incarceration, etc. These issues make it challenging for people to prepare for or respond to health emergencies.

Positive social and community relationships result in positive living and health outcomes. On the other hand, negative social relationships result in

So, how does social and community context affect health? For starters, connecting with other people in the community means access to emotional support. Connecting with others helps build a safety net for physical and mental health, reducing the risk of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Additionally, communities that have strong social cohesion can come together in times of trouble and find solutions to contribute to healthier living.

When writing an SDOH essay, you must show how social and community context affects health to write an effective paper.

Healthcare Access and Quality

One in 10 people in the U.S. does not have health insurance. This means that when they fall sick, many will not seek health care or be denied services. Additionally, they could lack the resources needed to acquire medications or pay for medical tests.

Healthcare access and quality are determined by these components: availability, accessibility, affordability, and quality of healthcare services.

Availability of healthcare services

if a community lacks clinics, hospitals or any other facilities or healthcare providers such as nurses and doctors to offer healthcare services to its people, then it is detrimental to the people's health.

Access to healthcare is key to managing chronic health conditions. Primary care is essential for efficient and patient-centered care.


If a community has healthcare facilities but accessing them is difficult, then it is an issue. People living mostly in rural areas often face the biggest challenge of accessing healthcare facilities, mainly due to bad roads and greater distances.

According to research, 75% of people living in Colorado identified transportation as the biggest issue preventing them from accessing healthcare. It causes late hospital arrivals, missed appointments, and hesitancy to make follow-up appointments.

Transportation affects people’s ability to reach their doctor's offices on time for their appointments and to stay for the duration of the appointments. Missing an appointment also means that one has to go back to the hospital; otherwise, it will be incomplete care.

Quality of care

Quality of care refers to how effectively, safely, and timely healthcare services are provided to those in need. It also means ensuring that those in need receive patient-centered care.

A society will be said to have achieved quality health care when there is reduced mortality and morbidity, improved quality of life, and patient satisfaction.

Some of the barriers to quality care in society include income, racial bias, distance transportation, etc., and overcoming these barriers will help improve the health of the population.

Neighbourhood and Built Environment

Built environments include walkways, buildings, apartments, urban spaces, roads, parks, cities, etc. Neighborhood and built environment is characterized by factors such as quality housing, access to healthy foods and recreational spaces,

The neighborhood and environments a person lives in have a major impact on their health and health outcomes. For starters, the built environment influences a person's level of physical activity. For instance, if there are no parks, gyms, walkways, or other spaces people can use to exercise, their physical health will be greatly affected.

Additionally, access to highly nutritious foods is essential for maintaining good health. For instance, if a community lacks grocery stores, supermarkets, and farmers markets with health foods and is only surrounded by fast food outlets, there will be more cases of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and hypertension.

Nurse's Role in Addressing Social Determinants of Health

Nurses play a crucial role in addressing social determinants of health to promote equality and healing for all. Here are some of the nurse's roles:

Steps for Writing a Social Determinants of Health Essay

Now that you understand what SDOH means and the different determinants, you can begin writing your essay.

Understand the Prompt

An essay writing prompt explains how your instructor expects you to write the essay, the writing style to use, the information to include, and the sources to use.

So read the prompt given and highlight all the keywords. The words that are considered 'buzz words' will help you know how to structure and write your essay well.

If a topic is highlighted, ensure you understand it. Identify the reasoning you need to use, e.g., why, what, who, etc., to write an effective essay.

If there is no topic provided, you will need to come up with one. Some of the topics you can consider for your social determinants of health are:

Select a topic that you will have an easy time writing about. Also, consider the topics that you are puzzled by or something that you would like to learn more about.


The next step is locating the right information to help you write an effective essay.

You can use academic databases such as PubMed, JSTOR, Google Scholar, etc., to find peer-reviewed articles on SDOH.

Additionally, consider using reputable health organizations and government agencies such as the U.N., WHO, and CDC to gather relevant reports and data about SDOH.

In addition, books and academic publications should be used to provide an in-depth analysis of different social determinants of health.

Ensure you evaluate your sources for credibility, accuracy, and relevance

Structure Your Social Determinant of Health Essay

Before writing, you must understand how to structure a social determinants essay. An SDOH essay has the same structure as another academic essay. This means it is divided into an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.


Hook, e.g., a shocking statistic about the impact of social determinants on health.

Body Paragraphs

The body part of your essay should discuss all five social determinants of health. Address all these in different determinants in each paragraph.

Here is how you should organize the body paragraphs:

Determinant 1

Follow this format for all the other paragraphs.


The last part of your social determinant of health essay is the conclusion. This part summarizes what you have discussed in the body part and provides recommendations for change.

Related: How to write an essay for a nursing class.

Write Your Essay

Begin your essay with a captivating introduction that grabs readers' attention and makes them want to read the rest of your essay. This is key in ensuring your message is read by people who can make changes happen.

Next, write the body of your essay, ensuring that each paragraph addresses one idea. For every point you share, ensure you provide relevant data, research findings, and real-world examples to support it.

Ensure that you address every determinant and show how patients, their families, and the community in general are affected.

Finish your SDOH essay with a great conclusion that summarizes everything you have discussed in throughout your paper. Make sure you mention the importance of addressing SDOH to ensure health equity.

Revise and Proofread Your Essay

Before submitting your essay, ensure you accomplish the goals and objectives you set in the beginning. It is also about checking the focus and the organization of the paper. So check all the ideas shared while thinking about the big picture. Check whether all the ideas complement your thesis statements.

Additionally, check for grammar, spelling, and formatting errors. To simplify the process, use appropriate software such as Grammarly. 

Final Word

Understanding the social determinants of health (SDOH) is key to finding solutions to the root causes of health inequalities within a community and ensuring health equity. Each SDOH plays a crucial role in shaping the health outcomes of the population and can either enhance people's well-being or contribute to health disparities. Tackling these determinants one by one can help ensure health equity.

When tasked to write a social determinants of health essay, you must address all the determinants, explore their relationships, and come up with actionable solutions to address them.

If you are having a hard time writing this type of essay, our online nursing essay experts can help. Reach out to us today for more information.

Struggling with


only $12 / page

NurseMyGrades is being relied upon by thousands of students worldwide to ace their nursing studies. We offer high quality sample papers that help students in their revision as well as helping them remain abreast of what is expected of them.

Get Help

Follow Us

We Accept