Social determinants of health (SDOH) are environmental conditions that affect an individual’s functioning, quality of life, and health. The environment varies depending on where one is born, lives, works, worships, plays, and learns throughout their life. These are common factors in the society which may affect an individual moderately or with adverse effects, the access to health care, education, socioeconomic status, social support networks, employment and neighborhood. The purpose of this paper is to discuss SDOH among people living in urban centers in the United States, the resultant health disparities, their effect, and how to overcome the negative impacts.
About 82% of the United States population live in urban centers, which implies that the urban centers are more populated as compared to the rural areas (Qiang et al., 2019). People of different ages live in the urban areas ranging from elderly, youth, teenagers and children. The urban population has an equal proportion of men and women; there are more representatives of different genders living here than in the villages. Urban centers are often called “melting pot”, because they are inhabited by representatives of all four races – Caucasian, Mongoloid, Negroid and Australoid, and various ethnicities. Due to high population and different socioeconomic status in these areas, negative health outcomes related to social determinants of health are deeply felt.
Mental health has been a challenge among people living in towns in US. Research shows that people living in urban areas have experienced mental illness more frequently than the people living in rural areas of the country (Xie et al., 2021). This negative health problem has increased over a decade ago: more people are committing suicide, losing their mental stability among other signs of mental illness.
Racial discrimination has increased in towns in the US over the years. Most of white people consider black Americans or even immigrants as less fortunate in the society. They mistreat them in the working places, schools, and even on the roads. Many of these cases have been reported to affect self-esteem and mental stability among the discriminated individuals. The working conditions become stressful and unbearable, this might lead to depression and feeling of being unwanted which in turn affects one’s psychological nature. The number of mental illnesses and diseases caused by stress prevails not only among the urban population of African Americans, but also in the United States as a whole. Every year the situation worsens, and the incidence continues to grow.
Diseases related to respiratory system have increased in urban centers in the US. Complications that affect people in urban centers concerning the respiratory system are more advanced and occur more frequently compared to the infections within the rural areas. Even though the mortality rate related to the infections is low due to medical advancements the infections are still high and they need to be controlled. There are risks such as, accidents in urban areas that are high as compared to rural areas and post risks on health of the individual in the US.
Physical environment as a SDOH is the main cause of these health disparities. The US is one of the most industrialized country in the world (Kuyucu, 2020). Industries produce hazardous gases that are released to the environment. These gases cause complications in the respiratory system when inhaled. Since most of the industries are found in urban areas the effect is high in these areas. Some of the gases also form smog in the environment that reduce visibility of drivers leading to accidents on the roads. In this regard, chronic respiratory diseases are becoming more common every year.
Racial discrimination and physical environment effects as social determinants of heath can be corrected through government intervention. Use of alternative forms of energy that will ensure little or no emissions to the environment can be implemented by the government. For example, the use of electric power instead of petroleum fuels. The law makers in the US should make laws that protect the disadvantaged races in the country. Those who show racism in towns should be severely punished without waiting until demonstrations are done (Alexander, 2019). This will ensure that people live in peace and discourage racism and hence better mental health. Public education on unity and love for one another in the working areas is also important as it also discourages discrimination. Companies and employers who encouraged racism should be severely punished. If it is an organization that practices such discrimination should be burned from practicing business in the country, such punishment can scare any other company with intentions of discrimination and therefore create peace and hence improved mental health.
Life in large cities adversely affects the physical and emotional state of people. Dynamic rhythm of life leads to constant stress, and, as a result, to an increase in the number of mental diseases. Poor ecology, smog and gas pollution contribute to the occurrence of respiratory diseases. Residents of the metropolis who are immigrants face racism on a daily basis. The problems of urban centers are getting worse every year; to combat them, it is necessary to regulate environmental issues and racial discrimination at the legislative level.
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Xie, X., Wang, N., & Chu, J. (2021). Social experiences with mental health service use among US adolescents. Journal of Mental Health, 4(1), 1-9.