Educating the Judiciary about the Social Determinants of Health
Research has shown that laws can significantly impact population health and health equity. Most of this research has focused on the impact of statutes and regulations, but in the U.S. legal system, with its well-entrenched tradition of judicial review, judges wield enormous authority over critical health determinants, including housing stability, socio-economic position (as impacted by education and income), access to health care, structural racism and the quality of the environment.
Salus Populi: Educating the Judiciary about the Social Determinants of Health is a project in collaboration with the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University School of Law and the Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research at Northeastern University that seeks to provide guidance and training to judges on the impact of the law on the social determinants of health.
The Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University School of Law promotes innovative solutions to public health challenges in Massachusetts and around the globe. The Center advances law and policy reforms to strengthen population health, reduce health disparities, nourish public health programs, and enhance access to affordable, high-quality health care.
The Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research is dedicated to generating scientific knowledge to promote health equity and social justice, and reduce disparities in health, mental health and well-being. The Institute’s projects focus on public mental health and substance use disorders, violence prevention and trauma studies, refugee, immigrant and global health, and health promotion and disease prevention across the life course.
Healthy People 2020 identified five key areas of determinants:
social and community context (incarceration, social cohesion, civic participation, and systemic discrimination particularly against people of color, women, LGBTQ+, older adults, and people with disabilities);
health and health care (access to health care, access to primary care, health literacy); and
neighborhood and built environment (crime and violence, environmental conditions, housing conditions).
Recognizing these SDOH can challenge our conventional understandings of public health and what it means to protect it.