Social determinants of health (SDoH) have a significant impact on a worker’s ability to return to work after a workplace injury. These social and economic determinates shape the worker’s environment and have a profound effect on health outcomes.

In a 2019 report, the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), outlines a goal that businesses should optimize the value of their workforce, “The impact of existing company practices on workforce health in all aspects of business operations must be considered, even in the areas not traditionally viewed as effecting employee health”.

Some factors that impact a worker’s return to work:

  • Income and education level: Workers with lower incomes and education levels may have limited access to healthcare, resources for recovery, and job opportunities that can accommodate their needs.
  • Social support: Workers who lack social support systems may have a harder time managing their health conditions and accessing the resources they need to return to work.
  • Access to healthcare: Workers who lack access to healthcare may have difficulty managing their health conditions and receiving treatment that can help them return to work.
  • Housing and neighborhood conditions: Workers who live in neighborhoods with poor housing conditions, inadequate transportation, or limited access to healthy food may have a harder time managing their health conditions and returning to work.
  • Discrimination and systemic inequalities: Workers who face discrimination or systemic inequalities based on their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other factors may experience higher rates of health conditions and have limited access to resources for recovery and job opportunities.
Social Determinants of Health. Healthy People 2030

Healthy People 2030, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

At MedCall, our telehealth triage services give injured workers fast access to healthcare and lowers the time it takes for a worker to return to work. As we analyze our data, we find there can be a correlation between workplace injuries and conditions in the workplace. Findings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, indicate that workers are “more prone to injuries and illness if their job includes repetitive lifting, pulling or pushing heavy loads, poor quality office equipment, long-term exposure to harmful chemicals such as lead, pesticides, aerosols, and asbestos, or a noisy work environment.”

In order to ensure workers safety, employers, healthcare & insurance providers, and policymakers should work together to identify and address SDoC factors and provide resources that can help workers overcome these challenges and succeed in returning to work.