There’s a long history to recognizing that social factors shape people’s health. But the social determinants of health are getting more attention than ever. Will that attention turn into action and lasting change?
How is this for a medical scenario? Through her stethoscope, a doctor hears a rattle in Mr. Rodriguez’s chest. “Urban-air congestion!” she declares, flinging the window open and aiming a magic spray at the polluted outdoors. “Two spritzes each morning for a week,” she says, handing her patient the bottle, “and you — and the neighborhood — should be fine.” Ms. Jackson has diabetes of the lives-too-far-from-veggies variety; her doctor gives her a wand she can wave to instantly transform her paved yard into a luxuriant garden with tomatoes, basil, beets and Brussels sprouts. Then there’s Mr. Diefenbaker, whose home is on a remote dirt road. His chronic conditions are worsening because he has trouble coming in