Educating Health Professionals on Social Determinants of Health
Health professionals are ill-prepared to address social factors that contribute to poor health, because these factors often lie beyond the scope of medical education. But just as addressing social determinants of health (SDH) involves stretching beyond traditional medical practices, educating health professionals involves stretching beyond traditional medical education.
A recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, written by an expert committee that included Antonia Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, Dean of Penn Nursing and an LDI Senior Fellow, examines the current approach to educating health professionals about SDH. The report suggests a framework that integrates educational components, community involvement, and organizational support in a holistic approach to lifelong learning about SDH [see figure].
The report stresses the importance of community engagement, including supporting pathways to higher education in underserved communities. This recommendation hinges on the belief that those who have experienced the negative impact of SDH are well-equipped to integrate this experience into their professional understanding.
In Penn Nursing’s press release, Dean Villaruel says: “I’m proud to say that Penn Nursing’s research, education, and practice is well positioned to address the recommendations in the IOM’s report, and, in fact, we are leading efforts consistent with the report. We will continue working with our interprofessional colleagues and community partners to engage our students in transformative learning which will prepare them to advance health equity at the point of care and through advocacy efforts.”
The recommendations from the report will inform the IOM’s Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education.