social determinants

How a person lives, learns, works, plays, worships and ages are key social determinants of health. So is where a person is born. But can social determinants really tell us why we do what we do?

It's a big ask. In fact, it's huge. And there won't be a definitive answer until the world starts comprehensively assessing all social determinants. That means charting and monitoring factors from every demographic, then establishing a standard method to apply to individual diagnoses. In other words, finding out the ways what makes us tick determines our health and well-being.

Fret not though. For the world's most formidable organizations are on the case. Yep, that's right. The best and the brightest and the biggest funded. Everyone from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the World Health Organization (WHO). The cause has also caught the attention of some of America's most dedicated NGOs, including the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Another organization of sorts recently got into the act too: The Kentucky General Assembly. And it's being backed by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. No, you may not initially suspect either the Kentucky Legislature or the Kentucky Chamber to be at the forefront of social determinants, but there they are. And if the new resolution the GA just adopted is any indication, they're there to stay.

Kentucky Resolve

We heard about the Kentucky General Assembly's new resolution from Jacqueline Pitts, who writes for the Chamber of Commerce's Bottom Line. At first we were a bit puzzled by the Chamber's issuing Legislature news. Then we considered just what that news represents, and it wasn't the least bit puzzling after all.

Then again, when one of the state's highest profile authorities steps up to address one of the state's most devastating issues, everyone should be eager to share the good news.

Yes, we're referring to Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD), which continues to slam the state. The damaging has been especially acute since the pandemic struck and people were deprived of their in-person sober support. In fact, an Associated Press report by Mike Stobbe and Adrian Sainz says Kentucky's overdose death rate had spiked 30%. And that was culled from figures dating back to last July. We almost don't want to know the numbers from the last half of the year.

Kentucky's 2021 General Assembly apparently knows though. Or they're at least anticipating a horror show. Because last week it adopted a resolution urging state leaders to address the social determinants of substance use disorder recovery.

The Resolution

The resolution, writes the AP tag-team, says the state needs to create a more comprehensive, person-centered approach to substance use disorder treatment and long-term recovery. And in order to do so, it must increase access to essential addiction services.

Here are some of those essential services:

  • Effective and accessible health care to treat physical, mental and behavioral health
  • Employment and educational opportunities
  • Safe and affordable housing
  • Transportation for treatment and to support recovery
  • Childcare to encourage workforce participation and stop the cycle of addiction

As you see, the list largely consists of social determinants. Makes sense considering these social services will largely determine whether or not a person can actually achieve long-term recovery. After all, without schooling or a job, let alone a roof over your head, it'd be a little difficult to prioritize sobriety. It'd be even more difficult if your mind wasn't settled enough to recognize priorities.

The Kentucky Legislature knows this. Thank Zeus they're also addressing the issue. For until and unless the powers that be flips the script on services, current social determinations will be bleak indeed.

What the General Assembly Says About Social Determinants

Here are some of the comments made by Senate President Robert Stivers and Representative Adam Bowling on the importance of addressing the social determinants of substance use disorder recovery:

“Substance use disorder is a complex and deadly disease that doesn’t discriminate based on race, age, income or zip code," said Representative Bowling. "That’s why it’s so important to bring treatment, prevention and recovery services to Kentuckians in all parts of the state."

Senator Stivers concurs with his colleague. The senator especially emphasizes the need to not let the epidemic fall prey to the pandemic.

“As we continue to address one public health crisis, we cannot overlook another that has continued to devastate many Kentucky families and communities,” said Stivers. “While we have made great strides in reducing stigma around addiction and connecting people with treatment and resources, our work is still cut out for us in addressing all the social determinants of recovery."

That's a solid admission. Not of guilt, mind you, but of intention. And determination. In other words, just the kind of things that will make for better social determinants.

Kudos and Salutations

Recovery Boot Camp salutes Senator Stivers, Representative Bowling and the entire Kentucky General Assembly for so resolutely stepping up and addressing social determinants. Theirs is the kind of resolve that can truly change things. We also salute the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce for keeping their keen eye on the prize. More importantly perhaps, for showing there's more to the bottom line than dollars and cents. Speaking of which... kudos too to Bottom Line scribe Jacqueline Pitts, as well as AP tag-team Mike Stobbe and Adrian Sainz. We always appreciate a good solid spur.

“When it comes to addiction recovery, we must prioritize long-term outcomes over short-term results," said Kentucky Chamber Vice President Beth Davisson. "Education, job training and stable employment are critical parts of the equation." We couldn't agree more. Apparently neither can the Kentucky Legislature. Now if every state stakeholder would come on board, our social determinants will adjust accordingly.

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