Capturing the social determinants of health at the individual level: A pilot study

Kate E. Neadley, Gai McMichael, Toby Freeman, Kathryn Browne-Yung, Fran Baum, Elaine Pretorius, Karen Taylor, Mark A. Boyd

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    Objective and importance of study: Considerable evidence suggests that adverse social determinants of health (SDH), such as poor education, unemployment, food and housing insecurity, interpersonal violence, inadequate social support and poverty, are key determinants of health and wellbeing. This prospective cohort study piloted a screening tool to collect individual SDH data in a South Australian hospital inpatient population. We explored participants' attitudes to SDH screening in brief follow-up interviews. Methods: This mixed-methods study used an SDH screening tool to collect individual-level SDH data from inpatients living in a highly disadvantaged socio-economic area. Participants had a primary diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure (HF) or diabetes mellitus. Follow-up interviews were completed post discharge via telephone. Descriptive statistics were employed to examine the prevalence and type of adverse SDH reported by the sample. Thematic analysis was applied to explore participants' attitudes to the screening. Results: The sample population (N = 37) reported a substantial burden of a range of adverse SDH (mean 4.7 adverse SDH experienced per participant, standard deviation 2.8). Participants involved in follow-up interviews (n = 8) believed screening might enhance communication between healthcare providers and patients and assist in identifying underlying social problems. Conclusion: A screening tool for SDH was successfully used to collect individual-level data in a hospital setting. An array of adverse SDH was common in the sample population. Participants believed screening for SDH may potentially benefit doctors and patients. A larger study is required to more robustly characterise the adverse SDH affecting individuals in this population and to explore how the healthcare system might effectively intervene.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere30232008
    Number of pages7
    JournalPublic Health Research and Practice
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


    • social determinants
    • health
    • wellbeing
    • SDH
    • inpatient population


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