Health is not simply a matter of biology it also involves a number of factors that are cultural, political, and economic brought together by the “social.” Measuring the social determinants of health represents a methodological challenge because physiological connections may not be directly self-evident. However, it is now clear that assigning causation solely to biological origins may not always account for all the relevant factors in a physical affliction’s pathogenesis and progression, especially in relation to the behaviors and social contexts that initially linked that person to the disease in the first place. The purpose of this toolkit is to provide medicine and health-related professions investigating the social determinants of health validated measures. This toolkit includes an overview of several determinants of health that are particularly relevant to obesity and chronic health conditions, especially cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The overview includes a short description as well as validated instruments used to measure these concepts.

The social mechanisms that affect health can be either simple or multiple, complex, and often times difficult to measure precisely. Difficulties can increase when trying to ascertain the direct effects of social structures on individuals because of the possible role of other variables that may intervene in the relationship, such as race or gender. Nevertheless, there are a growing number of methodologies specific to measuring the social determinants of health and research has presented several validated mechanisms to measure these determinants.


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