Determinants of Health

In the previous post, I mentioned that the first order of healing is to Establish the Foundations for Optimal Health by removing obstacles to health/healing and assessing determinants of health.

But what are determinants of health?

Simply put, they are factors that determine your health.

The World Health Organization classifies these broadly as [1]:

  • the social and economic environment,
  • the physical environment, and
  • one’s individual characteristics and behaviours.

More specifically [1]:

  • Physical environment – availability of clean water and air, safe houses, low crime environment, healthy workplaces, communities and roads all contribute to good health.
  • Health services – access and use of services that prevent and treat disease influences health
  • Income and social status – higher income and social status are associated with better health.
  • Education – low education levels are associated poor health, more stress and lower self-confidence. I would also add one’s health literacy about factors affecting one’s health.
  • Employment and working conditions – people in employment are healthier, particularly those who have more control over their working conditions
  • Social support networks – greater support from families, friends and communities is linked to better health.
  • Culture – customs and traditions, and the beliefs of the family and community all affect health. So does racial/religious/gender/class discrimination.
  • Genetics – inheritance plays a part in determining lifespan, healthiness and the likelihood of developing certain illnesses.
  • Personal behaviour and coping skills – balanced eating, keeping active, smoking, drinking, and how we deal with life’s stresses and challenges all affect health.
  • Gender – Men and women suffer from different types of diseases at different ages.

All these factors (and more) play a part in determining our health. Of course, everyone’s lives and experiences are different and so everything has to be taken in context.

As Naturopathic physicians, we must consider these factors when taking a client’s case history because they are closely related to his/her health.


  1. Determinants of health (
  2. Determinants of Health | Healthy People 2020

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