Opportunities for All Businesses – SDoH Across the SDGs Part 1

Introduction to the Social Determinants of Health in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
By:  Elissa Torres On December 4, 2021
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Elissa Torres, PhD, Author

              Many people think of healthcare as being doctors and nurses.  However, did you know that economics, housing, education, and consistent nutritious food have more to do with individual health than actual clinical care?  There is so much more to healthy lives and promoting well-being than medical care. Individual health is linked to many other factors, referred to as the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH).  The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined the SDoH as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age” (2019, p. 1).  In fact, only about 20% of our health is linked to actual clinical care, whereas 30% is related to health behaviors, 40% to social and environmental factors, and 10% to the physical environment (Magnan, 2017).

While the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion separates the SDoH into five different domains (U.S. HHS, 2021), for this series, Food Insecurity is a stand-alone domain rather than being integrated with others.


Why is it essential for us to understand all these domains related to health?  As noted above, up to 80% of health is linked to areas outside of clinical care.  With the increased numbers of the unemployed, migrants, instability around the world, and the recent pandemic, many globally are homeless or under-housed, experience food insecurity, live in fear, and face other vulnerabilities.   How can they live a healthy life in those situations?  More importantly, how can you live a healthier life understanding these issues?

I’m not asking you to stop your routine medical visits.  The SDoH broaden our appreciation of what it takes to live a healthy life.  A person can experience stress in any or all of the domains.  Improving conditions in them leads to a healthier, more productive and longer life.

In the upcoming articles, I will review these domains so you can evaluate your community and where you can have an influence.  If you want to know more information about how the SDGs support healthy living, the SDoH link to SDGs 11 Sustainable Cities, 2 Zero Hunger, 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, 4 Quality Education, 16 Peace, Justice, Strong Institutions, 17 Partnership for the Goals, and, of course, 3 Good Health and Well-being.

To read about careers supporting the SDoH, please read SDG3 Co-Author Marilyn Johnson’s series “Spark Your Purpose with an SDG Career Lens”.  Please comment below, bookmark my page, share on social media, and stay tuned for my next article in this series.


Magnan, S. (2017, October 9). Social determinants of health 101 for healthcare: five plus five. Retrieved from National Academy of Medicine: https://nam.edu/social-determinants-of-health-101-for-health-care-five-plus-five/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, August 28). Social Determinant of Health. Retrieved from Healthy People 2030: https://health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/social-determinants-health

WHO. (2019, December 11). Social determinants of health. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/social_determinants/en/

Copyright 2021 Elissa Torres and SHERPA Institute.  All rights reserved – please cite and link to this web page.
Image courtesy of ILN Insights 2012 14982 – Version 3 | Ted Eytan | Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/7832186660

By Elissa Torres

Elissa Torres earned her Ph.D. in Organization and Management, is a Certified Master Black Belt, Business Architect, and Systems Architect. With SHERPA Institute, she earned her CISR Practitioner Certification and is a Co-Author on the SDG3 Corporate Guidebook. She has over three decades in process improvement, optimization, and automation. Dr. Torres has worked in financial services and healthcare services both overseeing quality and process improvement initiatives. By leading others to optimize the organization through training and certification, she has expanded organizational capabilities, increased employee engagement, elevated culture, and enabled companies to make a difference in our world. Over the past decade, Torres has consulted in industries including healthcare, manufacturing, education and nonprofit organizations on strategy, operations, organizational development, and optimization. Her work with the nonprofit sector has focused on improving outcomes for small business development and social determinants of health (SDoH). Elissa is writing a series of articles on SDoH for the SHERPA Institute website. Torres is a professor in supply chain, quantitative methods, research, and business technology with Grand Canyon University and a business consultant specializing in optimization and technology implementation. She is married with two grown children and two dogs. Living in Arizona, she has a passion for spending time outside in nature on the many hiking trails.

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