Awareness of the broader contexts that influence health supports respectful, patient-centered care that incorporates lived experiences, optimizes health outcomes, improves communication, and can help reduce health and health care inequities. Although there is little doubt that genetics and lifestyle play an important role in shaping the overall health of individuals, interdisciplinary researchers have demonstrated how the conditions in the environment in which people are born, live, work, and age, play equally as important a role in shaping health outcomes. These factors, referred to as social determinants of health, are shaped by historical, social, political, and economic forces and help explain the relationship between environmental conditions and individual health. Recognizing the importance of social determinants of health can help obstetrician–gynecologists and other health care providers better understand patients, effectively communicate about health-related conditions and behavior, and improve health outcomes.
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