Health is predominantly viewed and discussed as purely a matter of personal choices. However, it is important to recognize that our ability to make healthy choices is determined by the social environments or conditions we live in. Often termed the social determinants of health, the social conditions an individual faces—where they play, learn, sleep, seek care, and age—are influenced by their identity including their race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.
The makeup of our unhealthiest of communities and the disproportionate representation in health disparity data is the result of a legacy and continuing history of state sanctioned discriminatory and racist policies and programs that have subjected individuals of particular identities including people of color, women, lgbtq communities, undocumented people, working class families and individuals, indigenous communities and disabled bodied people to social conditions that have deprived their ability to freely and safely choose a healthy life. Most evidently in our country, has been the different health trajectories experienced by race/ethnicity. Given the continuing history of racism including jim crow, discriminatory housing, zoning, lending and policing policies and practices generations of communities of color, particularly African American families have been pushed to social conditions completely deprived of the choice for quality housing, jobs, schools, healthy food access, transportation, political representation among other basic needs.
Nevertheless, resilience is a natural developmental mechanism present in all individuals that has allowed people to overcome threats to their social environments and developmental well-being. The resilience of community members, who have been directly affected by the social ills their neighborhoods have been pushed on and subjected to, continues to bring forward some of the successful and innovative ways to shape their social conditions into the health promoting environments they want their communities to be and their children to grow in.
Some of the key social determinants for a healthy childhood include: