According to many scholars, there exists a thin difference between health care and social determinants of health. Social determinants of health are broadly defined as the economic and social factors, which define people’s health conditions. That is, they are taken as the societal and not individual risk factors that determine the level of risk of disease in an individual. On the other hand, health care is primarily done by health care practitioners in areas of medicine. It is the primary function of conducting diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease in an individual and community as a whole.
There exist important difference between health care approach for promoting community health and social determinants approach. To begin with, social determinants are responsible for the human living conditions as well as his environment. Such environment entails human health system as well. Importantly, these human living conditions are heavily dependent on financial wealth, power and all kinds of resources at the global down to the local level. This, therefore, means that human health is dependent on the three variables of money, power and resources. Consequently, social determinants can either serve to promote human health or destroy it, and as such, these determinants are responsible for health disparities or inequities amongst various people. Social determinants approaches, therefore, are those concepts, principles and strategies aimed at reducing and eliminating health disparities in the world. Included in the approach are education, housing, employment, access to health care and justice among others.
On the other hand, health care approach for improving community health is embedded in the Primary Health Care approach of Alma Ata Declaration. In its holistic sense, it refers to a comprehensive set of principles and concepts that addresses health issues for all people irrespective of race, geographical region, urban or rural, gender and economic status. Importantly, the major goal for this particular approach is to achieve universal health for all people. This goal is anchored on various principles that include: equity, which ensures health care that is available to all people without any form of bias; community involvement that employs the use of local resources and personnel; health workforce, which seeks to ensure that there is sufficient personnel to handle health matters; emphasis on the use of appropriate technology that is both affordable, acceptable and accessible to the recipient community; multi-sectional involvement whose major goal is to incorporate a wide range of sectors, this is based on the realization that achieving health for all cannot be left for the formal health sector alone.
Therefore, the difference between the approaches is that, social determinants approaches only seek to address the health disparities and inequities that can be avoided in order to achieve health for all people. On the other hand, health care approach, which basically is embedded on primary health care is the actualization and tackling of health problems by providing health care services to all people. This difference leads to socialization of people about health. In essence, this takes various forms, which include: education, where people are socialized on health issues through learning and training; employment, which avails the necessary capital and finance for accessing health services; justice, which eliminates all forms of discrimination in providing health service.
Regarding social, education and economic policies being health policy, this is important. This arises out of the inevitable fact that health for all cannot be achieved without them or in isolation of the three. Inventions in the field of medicine such as drugs, medical technologies are only possible, when a country invests in education and research, this in turn affects health. On the same note, economic policies that create wealth for a country are crucial in determining health of a nation. This is because the health sector has been commercialized making economic policies really instrumental in determining who gets health services. Some of the ways to improve community health that addresses social determinants are investing in a country’s educational system and placing emphasis on research and establishing of better health insurance policies that cover the people.