Cassie Smith | May 3, 2018
Where you live affects your health. Life expectancies and chronic disease rates vary from zip code to zip code, even across small geographic distances.
Experts say the reasons for this are the social determinants of health, which are “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes,” according to the Healthy People 2020 initiative. That includes economic stability, education, social and community support, access to health care and your neighborhood.
On April 19, the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program hosted a webcast at the National Association of Broadcasters (a program underwriter) to discuss social determinants of health and how to address them, with a focus on cancer and cancer prevention.
The discussion was moderated by Maggie Fox, NBC News senior health writer, and featured panelists Sherrie Flynt Wallington, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Oncology at the Georgetown University Medical Center, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Electra Paskett, Ph.D., Associate Director for Population Sciences, Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Ohio State University.
Ms. Fox provided background on health disparities and social determinants of health before turning the discussion over to the panelists. Dr. Wallington focused on how social determinants of health affect minorities and urban communities, while Dr. Paskett addressed why disparities exist and how they can be overcome in rural communities. Both speakers highlighted community initiatives working to overcome health disparities and recommendations that can be implemented in underserved neighborhoods across the U.S. For example, in Kentucky, where smoking rates are high, eye-catching smoking cessation ads have been put on the sides of tobacco barns where tobacco ads had historically been displayed. Elsewhere, mobile mammography vans are used in both rural and urban communities to reach women who aren’t able to get to mammography facilities for breast cancer screening, and in the underserved urban areas around District of Columbia, planting community gardens and teaching families the importance of eating fresh produce and other healthy foods has been successful in developing healthy habits to reduce cancer risk in the District of Columbia.
Following the presentations, Ms. Fox moderated a 30-minute Q&A, allowing the panelists to elaborate on earlier points and delve into other topics, including transportation in health disparities, the effect of mental health and stress on your response to chronic diseases, and challenges in communicating the effectiveness and need for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
The webcast is available to view on-demand.