Mission Hospital in Asheville
Mission Hospital in Asheville at night. Courtesy of Mission Health

Welcome to The Kicker from Carolina Public Press, a North Carolina news show bringing you conversations with journalists, sources and newsmakers from across the state.

In this episode NC Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen talks with Carolina Public Press managing editor Frank Taylor about the social determinants of health.

The phrase “social determinants of health” has come into use lately in public policy circles, especially among academics, according to Dr. Cohen. But she prefers the word “drivers,” as there is nothing pre-determined about one’s health. The concept remains useful as a way to look at factors outside of direct health services that influence health outcomes. These can range from environmental factors — such as access to mold-free housing — to nutritional, educational and economic factors. Geographic factors can also affect health outcomes for locations where people have limited access to transportation connecting them to health services and affordable nutritious foods.

Philanthropic organizations can also use this concept of social drivers or determinants of health as they look for ways to invest in public health. This may become an important consideration for the new Dogwood Health Trust, which is being formed following the merger of nonprofit Mission Health into a for-profit health care company in Western North Carolina.

The Kicker is a production of Carolina Public Press. It also airs weekly at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on WPVM radio 103.7 FM in Asheville.

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