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Social Drivers of Health – Health Insurance Guidelines

Have you ever seen oxygen floating around the air? But you still know it’s there, abundant in the air you breathe in and that is the reason you’re alive. Similar in a manner in which you can say that oxygen exists in the air, but have never seen it with your own naked eye, there are other things in this world that are not directly visible to the human eye at first glance, but whose existence affects the entire system very profoundly. 

For instance, scientists say that even apart from your diet and exercise, there are other factors that affect your health. What’s unfortunate is that many of these may be beyond your immediate control. Did you know that the area you live in or the friends you make affect your health deeply? Sounds surprising, but all these actually go into determining how healthy you are and how vulnerable you are, to debilitating medical conditions.

In this blog, we set out on a journey to identify and understand some of the factors that affect your health greatly. 

What are Social Drivers of Health?

If your 2021 goal consists of being healthier, you must first understand what you’re fighting for and what you’re fighting against. After all, the first step to defeating the enemy is knowing the enemy! Unless you know the enemy, it may not really matter how fast you run. We can divide the factors that affect your health into two parts: Immediate and Social.

Immediate factors are usually the factors which you can control, such as your diet, how much you exercise, how much sugar you eat, how much oil you intake and how fond you are of junk food! These are the factors which are usually well-talked about, really popular amongst the new-year-goal-setters! Even exercise and keeping physically fit is a choice.

We now turn to the Social Drivers of Health, which remain a mystery amongst the general public. Social drivers of health refer to those determinants of health that are not a part of the traditional health system but affect the health of an individual deeply. Examples of social drivers of health include the locality you live in, the kind of hospitals you have around you, the kind of grocery stores you have around you, the schools you went to as a child and the schools you send your children to and much more! Surprised? Everyone is! Read on to know more about social drivers of health and how you can do something about them. 

Broadly, let us look at key social drivers of health

  1. Your Locality
  2. The Stores around you
  3. Your Friends and Family
  4. Your Workspace

Without any more delay, let’s get to getting to know more about these!

Reading your address? Read between the lines!

If you’re changing homes and visiting a hundred different localities to find a possible home you can rent or buy, it’s definitely important to read the address, but not for the obvious reasons you’re thinking of! There’s more in an address than one can think of! Your locality shapes a lot of your health outcomes. 

How the hell is that? Well, imagine you live in a really unsafe neighborhood where it is not advisable for you to go out after 6 PM. You spend your entire day at the office and when you finally come back, you’re locked inside your home because you can’t go out. There are many such areas in India and the world which are prone to crime. 

Imagine the kind of effects this lack of exercise, sense of fear and physical activity has on your health. Regular exercise can help stave off many diseases and disorders; the most common being obesity, blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, etc. Exercise has also proved to have a great positive effect on your mental health1! If your neighborhood does not have good parks or open gyms or gyms, you must consider an alternative for your physical exercise to remain healthy! 

Even apart from exercising opportunities, your neighborhood also determines other factors of health in other ways. For instance, suppose an individual lives in a locality with a lot of air and noise pollution. These factors are beyond your immediate control, but do end up affecting your health significantly; especially your lungs. People living in areas with bad air quality for prolonged periods of time have a greater risk of lung cancer, asthma, bronchitis, etc. 

Going out Grocery Shopping? Take a Second Look at your Cart!

The US Department of Agriculture has used an interesting term for ‘Food deserts. According to them, 13% of all areas in the US can be classified as food deserts. What are these food deserts that you must save yourself and your family from? Food deserts are areas where ingredients of nutrition-rich food are not available3. Hence, this unavailability of healthy ingredients deters you from eating healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

The stores- grocery stores and convenience stores around you will eventually determine what you purchase, how you consume and thus how you end up looking in the future! Even if we assume that you have access to healthy ingredients; just having access is not enough. You also need to have the motivation and the energy to take a few extra steps to be healthier! Research shows that just having healthier food options on your plate can having shocking positive effects on your health and life span4

If you have kids, we understand that motivating your kid to eat green can be tough, but it is not entirely impossible! You can try making attractive, colorful, and delicious smoothies, trying out new recipes, and make having food into a point-based game! In this way, you can develop your children’s taste from early on in their lives in the right direction, so that a healthier lifestyle comes naturally to them and food is channeled properly into their bodies!

Your friend or Your Foe

The people you hang out with a much larger effect on you than you care to imagine! Remember how your mom always told you while growing up that if you’re in a room with four stupid people, the fifth one is you! Have a close look at your friends’ lifestyles. What did you do guys do together the last time you met? Did you go out for tennis, or did you meet at their house and bonded over a bucket of fried chicken with Netflix playing in the background? 

In the book ‘Ikigai’, authors set out to Japan to find the secret behind supercentenarians (people who live beyond the age of 100) and mention that feeling like you’re a part of a close-knit community leads you to live a happier, longer life! Lack of supportive friends also makes you vulnerable to depression and anxiety5. Even having smokers as friends can affect your lung health negatively as passive smoking is as bad as active smoking; perhaps worse. 

Now, you can’t really go around breaking friendships over the fact that your friends smoke more than you want them to. However, what you can do is to motivate them to be a better version of themselves. This will not only help them but also help you! It is tougher to break a pact of two! You can make a resolution to go to the gym together or eat healthy together and keep away from junk food and motivate each other whenever you feel the need to! Remember, in the process, you are going to end up with two healthy people.

Crushed by the Loads of Files on Your Desk? Help Yourself Out!

Work overload and frustration is a major challenge in recent times. Well, this one may not come out as a huge surprise to you, but stress has major negative effects on your health and life span. If you think your job does not compensate you for what it takes out of you, then the onus is on you to take a call.

After all, for a healthy body and a peaceful mind, you need quality time with your kids, personal time to keep you sane, etc. Maybe it’s time to consider changing your job! We know this is easier said than done and it is out of your immediate control, but this is why it is a part of social drivers of health and not the immediate ones. If your job offers you good health insurance coverage, an employee assistance program, and safety nets, you might as well be having a better job than you think! 

One important idea behind having a healthier work-life is to draw clear boundaries between your work and personal life and to respect those. Make a timetable where you take out time for everything in your life holistically. You don’t want to return from your office, working the entire day for the growth of a company, only to come home and not work for your own growth! It is time to set your priorities straight! Foster a culture of health around your workspace where you respect your colleagues and support them. 

In conclusion, not all the determinants of your health care are in your hands but quite a lot of the triggers are in your hands. But what you can definitely do is to plan and take action in the long-run! You cannot immediately change the place you live in or you cannot just get rid of the job at hand. Similarly, you can overnight change your friends and abandon your long time friends. These are socially unacceptable. But you need to make the right choices. However, what you can definitely work on is to change the way you currently perceive health and plan in the long-run to foster changes in your lifestyle. You also need to bear in mind that, even if you cannot change all of these things immediately, you do not need to stress yourself out by worrying about them. Motivation, determination and patience will answer a lot of the questions that are currently plaguing your mind!

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