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Measurement Across Sectors: Common Indicators for the Social Determinants of Health

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In this academic article published in Social Science and Medicine – Population Health, the Build Healthy Places Network explores what common metrics and indicators are used across sectors to measure health.

The importance of social determinants of health (SDOH) —such as affordable housing, stable employment, consistent transportation, healthy food access, and quality schools—is well-established as a key component of chronic disease prevention and health promotion.


  • Growing interest exists in measuring social determinants of health (SDOH).
  • We aimed to understand the current state of SDOH measurement across sectors.
  • General consensus exists on SDOH categories included in current measurement tools.
  • However, there is wide variation in specific indicators with most used only once.
  • Collaborating beyond sectoral bounds will be critical in increasing impact.

Increasingly, practitioners within and beyond public health are collaborating to implement such strategies, part of which involves measuring their impacts over time. This study assesses the current state of SDOH measurement across sectors by systematically identifying how many and what kinds of tools exist and whether there is consensus around SDOH categories and indicators selected.

This study revealed that while numerous SDOH measurement resources exist, relatively few are tools for measuring the SDOH. Although the SDOH categories being measured could be readily summarized across tools, there was wide variation in the particular SDOH categories included in each tool. Finally, remarkably little consensus exists for the specific indicators used to measure SDOH categories. While complete consensus across tools may not be possible, learning how different sectors measure SDOH and more systematically aligning SDOH categories and indicators being measured will enable greater collaboration and deepen the impacts of place-based interventions to improve community health and well-being.

Authors: Renee Roy Elias, Douglas Jutte, Alison Moore