top of page

Health Beyond Medicine: Americans Significantly Impacted by Underlying Social Determinants of Health

Research released today by The Root Cause Coalition highlights knowledge gaps and attitudes about health equity and social determinants that impact Americans, while also raising several relevant issues for those working to achieve health justice.

Importantly, TRCC’s findings reveal not only what the public thinks should be prioritized within social determinants, but also the greatest perceived impact on a family’s health: Financial health. While the data shows distinctions between prioritization and impact, economic stability ranks at the top for both. Consumers also prioritize health and healthcare (27% rank as the top priority compared with 30% for economic stability).

Behind economic stability, social and community context is seen to have great impact on individual and family health. Respondents say that having family and friends to rely on for help, having strong ties with neighbors and having a supportive community is understood to have value.

Data from this report also underscores the importance of language – what resonates with Americans and how to communicate about Social Determinants of Health. Familiarity with the term Social Determinants of Health is not well-known or understood, with only one in five consumers (21%) reporting familiarity. Other terms not well understood include Health Justice and Root Causes of Health Outcomes. White/Caucasian respondents are even less familiar with health equity language than both African Americans and Hispanics. The vast majority of consumers, however, are familiar with terms such as Black Lives Matter, Chronic Health Conditions and Well-Being.

Despite this low level of familiarity, there is cause for optimism. Americans feel a sense of common cause, with a majority (59%) reporting that individuals should each be responsible for the health and well-being of the greater community. And at the same time, this research reveals what would most improve a family’s health: 1) healthcare services; 2) good quality, nourishing food and 3) affordable housing – all aspects of social determinants that The Root Cause Coalition is deeply committed to over the near- and long-term.

“This research affirms our mission to achieve health equity – and its urgency – and provides proof points for our advocacy priorities – never more important and simultaneously magnified than during the global pandemic,” said Barbara Petee, the Coalition’s Executive Director. “The Coalition’s cross-sector approach is also front and center in these findings, with Americans reporting that those responsible for addressing social determinants include federal agencies, all levels of government as well as health care, public health departments and community-based organizations, among others.”


This survey was conducted using Dynata’s online panel. The sample size was 1,200 U.S. participants, with an oversample of Hispanics/Latinos (n=194) and African Americans (n=223). Participants were required to be at least 18-years of age and reside in the U.S. The sample was balanced according to the population for age, gender, geographic region, ethnicity, and income.

The survey was fielded October 16-27, 2020 and participants took an average of seven minutes to complete the survey.

A report brief can be found here and a copy of the full report can be found here.

Co-founded by AARP Foundation and ProMedica in 2015, The Root Cause Coalition is a non-profit member-driven organization comprised of more than 70 leading health systems, hospital associations, foundations, businesses, national and community nonprofits, health insurers, academic institutions, local governments and policy centers. Our common goal is to achieve health equity for every American.

Contact: Alexandra Lewin-Zwerdling



Recent Posts

See All

Climate as a Social Driver of Health

The Root Cause Coalition recently conducted a nationally representative study of adults 18 years of age and older to assess perceptions, experiences with and concerns about the effect of climate chang

bottom of page