Blog Post

Insight: Utah’s Social Determinants of Health: An Economic and Humanitarian Imperative

By: Laura Summers

Health is a key part of Utah’s economy. It is one of the largest industries in the state, employs a substantial number of people, supplies good paying jobs—and, as we all know, your own personal health can have a significant impact on your economic situation. Poor health can make it more difficult to find and maintain employment and serious medical emergencies can leave people with unplanned debt.

On August 17, 2018, the Gardner Policy Institute and the Hatch Center for Civility & Solutions jointly hosted the annual Kem C. Gardner Policy Symposium “The Root of the Issue: Utah’s Social Determinants of Health.” The symposium, convened by Governors Mike Leavitt and Mitt Romney, focused on strategies and innovations for addressing Utahns’ social determinants of health, which are the conditions in which people are born, live, work, worship, and play that affect their health risks and outcomes.

Research shows that non-medical factors, such a person’s social and physical environment, behaviors, and economic stability, account for up to 60 percent of their health outcomes, with genetics and the health care system making up the other 40 percent. As Karen DeSalvo, M.D. and national expert on social determinants of health stated at the event, “your zip code is a stronger indicator of your health than your genetic code.”

Looking at Utah’s zip codes, data s