WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation to study and address how social, environmental, and economic conditions exacerbate health inequities for Black, Brown, Indigenous, and people of color. These conditions, known as social determinants of health (SDOH), are the result of institutional racism embedded in our society including in housing, employment, education, health care and more.

Murphy and Smith said that Black, Brown, Indigenous and people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic due to the social determinants of health. While it’s often believed that good health is only due to medical care, clinical treatment accounts for only 10 to 20 percent of an individual’s overall health. Meanwhile, around 80 to 90 percent of healthy outcomes are driven by social determinants.1

 “COVID-19 exposed deep inequities in our health care system, taking a disproportionate toll on communities of color. It's really hard to stay healthy if you don't have a safe place to live or nutritious food, and it's time we realize that a little money creating healthy environments saves taxpayers a ton in the long run. I’m glad to team up with my colleague Sen. Smith to introduce legislation that provides grants to local communities working towards better health outcomes for those in need as an important step to tackle the structural inequalities people of color face every day in this country,” said Sen. Murphy.

“COVID-19 is a glaring example of how Black, Brown, Indigenous and people of color are hit hardest by social determinants of health,” said Sen. Smith. “In this historic moment, we need to root out institutional racism and address the challenges it has presented. This includes helping people who lack medical care, safe places to call home, jobs, adequate food and more. The measure I’m introducing with Senator Murphy would provide grants to communities to help improve the health of individuals and families. It will also direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study how we can improve health outcomes and reduce health inequities. Our legislation aligns with President Biden's focus to advance racial equity, and we'll be working to move it forward. "

“Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) thanks Sen. Smith and Sen. Murphy on the re-introduction of the Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 2021. Health is foundational to overall wellbeing, including economic security and fulfilling ones' potential for personal achievement, all which have been especially threatened during the COVID-19 pandemic.” said John Auerbach, President and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “This legislation would begin to address the adverse impacts of SDOHs and empower public health departments and community organizations to act as chief health strategists in their communities. It is an important next step in improving health outcomes, reducing healthcare spending and addressing health inequities. TFAH is proud to support this bill and urges Senate support.”

The Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 2021 is endorsed by more than 345 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 Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
You can read a summary of the bill here
 and bill text here
1. Magnan, Sanne. “Social Determinants of Health 101 for Health Care: Five Plus Five,” National Academy of Medicine, 9 October 2017, https://nam.edu/social-determinants-of-health-101-for-health-care-five-plus-five/.