WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) on Thursday introduced legislation to study and address how social, environmental, and economic conditions exacerbate health inequities, which significantly affects Black, Brown, Indigenous, and people of color. These conditions, known as social determinants of health (SDOH), include institutional racism in housing, unemployment and job insecurity, education, access to affordable health care and more. While it’s often believed that good health is only due to medical care, one estimate found that clinical treatment accounts for only 10 to 20 percent of an individual’s overall health. Meanwhile, around 80 to 90 percent of health outcomes are driven by social determinants.

“When you don’t have a safe, stable place to live, or you can’t find affordable, nutritious food in your neighborhood, you’re more likely to develop chronic health issues that cost you thousands in medical bills. These structural inequities disproportionately impact communities of color and can have really devastating consequences for peoples’ health. I’m glad to team up with Senator Smith on this legislation to make a worthwhile investment in helping communities create healthy environments and improve long-term health outcomes,” said Murphy.

“For many Black, Brown, Indigenous and people of color, health outcomes like chronic disease and overall longevity are determined by factors out of their control, often rooted in institutional racism and lasting inequities. Supporting healthy families and communities means more than just access to medical care – it’s also having a safe place to call home, jobs, adequate food and more,” said Smith. “This legislation will help us chart a better path forward to rectify historical injustices and ensure everyone has the chance to live a healthy life.”


“Social determinants of health, including housing, employment, food security, transportation, and education, contribute significantly to people’s health outcomes over their lifetime. Communities need more flexible and cross-cutting resources to address these factors that if unaddressed can lead to poor health. CDC’s SDOH program has already assisted dozens of communities in creating SDOH plans and now needs the resources to allow additional grantees to implement these community tailored plans,” said Dr. Nadine Gracia, President and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “Public health plays an important role in convening partners from different sectors and trusted community leaders to address these non-medical drivers of health. This legislation is an important step in improving health outcomes, reducing overall healthcare spending, and helping reduce health disparities. TFAH is proud to support this bill.”

The Improving Social Determinants of Health Act is endorsed by more than 158 organizations across the country. This legislation will:

  • Authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a program to improve health outcomes, reduce health inequities, and improve capacity of public health agencies and community organizations to address SDOHs. 
  • Coordinate across CDC to ensure programs consider and incorporate social determinants of health in grants and activities.
  • Award grants to state, local, territorial, and Tribal health agencies to address social determinants of health in target communities.
  • Award grants to nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education to conduct research on best practices for addressing the social determinants of health.
  • Coordinate, support, and align social determinant of health activities at the CDC with other federal agencies.
  • Collect and analyze data related to social determinant of health activities.
  • Authorize $50 million annually for program activities. 

In addition to Murphy and Smith, this legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

You can read a summary of the bill here and bill text here.