Beyond the medical model — addressing Social Drivers of Health for overall well-being

The food we have access to, where we live, the transportation methods available, how safe our neighborhoods are, and our support systems can affect our health. These factors, called Social Drivers of Health (SDoH) , influence up to 80% of our health.1

Why are SDoH factors important?

SDoH have been shown to have a greater influence on health than genetic factors or access to healthcare.2 It’s important to consider them when treating patients because of their incredible impact.

SDoH factors include:

  • Economic stability — 11.5% of Americans live in poverty and have difficulty affording healthy foods, healthcare, and housing.3

  • Education quality — people who don’t finish high school or go to college are less likely to get safe, high-paying jobs and more likely to have health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and depression.4

  • Healthcare access — approximately one in 10 Americans don’t have health insurance and may be unable to afford healthcare services and medications.5

  • Neighborhood safety — minorities and people with low incomes are more likely to live in neighborhoods with high rates of violence, unsafe air or water, and other health and safety risks.6

  • Social support — some people, like children whose parents are in jail and adolescents who are bullied, often don’t have a support system.

How can providers address SDoH factors when treating patients?

When a doctor sees a patient, it’s very possible at least one of these SDoH factors is negatively affecting them. They may have recently lost their job, live in a neighborhood affected by violence, or have limited resources.

Treating beyond the traditional medical care model and examining the person’s whole-person health will help create a better care plan.

What is the medical care model?

Known as the primary healthcare model, the medical care model is an illness-based, diagnostic approach to medicine. It is cause-and-effect oriented and mainly looks to treat symptoms and restore the patient’s health as quickly as possible.

What is whole-person care?

Whole-person care means our doctors and nurses look beyond the physical symptoms. We examine the body as well as any social or environmental factors and behavioral conditions. By considering these factors, we can apply a more accurate treatment that promotes better overall results.

Carelon Health’s approach to whole-person care

Carelon Health specializes in whole-person care for patients with complex and chronic conditions. We recognize the mind–body connection and know that health depends on many factors beyond the medical. In addition to providing care at care centers, we perform home visits that are especially effective at assessing social needs, such as nutrition, housing, transportation, and family relationships.

If you’d like to learn more about how we deliver personalized, whole-person care that ensures better outcomes, visit our Advanced Primary Care page.

1 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Medicaid’s Role in Addressing Social Determinants of Health (accessed June 2023):
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Why Is Addressing Social Determinants of Health Important for CDC and Public Health? (accessed June 2023):
3 Creamer J, Shrider EA, Burns K, Chen F: Poverty in the United States: 2021 (September 2022):
4 United States Department of Health and Human Services – Healthy People 2030: Education Access and Quality (accessed June 2023):
5 Schiller JS, M.P.H., Norris T, Ph.D.: National Center for Health Statistics — Division of Health Interview Statistics (April 2023):
6 United States Department of Health and Human Services – Healthy People 2030: Neighborhood and Built Environment (accessed June 2023):
7 United States Department of Health and Human Services – Healthy People 2030: Social and Community Context (accessed June 2023):