When counseling patients on health, physicians often focus on lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise or smoking. This kind of advice can be important for the individual, but does little to change underlying drivers of health like income, education and employment. These factors are the ones that have the greatest impact on whether patients will be able to eat well, move around or butt out.
Health care is but one element of what makes the biggest difference in health outcomes — social factors play a far more significant role. Income and its distribution, education, employment, social supports, housing, nutrition, and the wider environment — what we have come to know as the social determinants of health — are the most powerful predictors of wellness and longevity.