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Navigating the Social Determinants of Care: Lack of Economic Stability Causes Disparities in Care

Introduction to Determinants of Health from Lack of Economic Stability

In the first part of our topic on health detriments, we discussed the different barriers that can occur for patients in rural and urban communities. In this second part, we will discuss the obstacles that arise from a lack of economic stability. This can include limited access to healthcare, food insecurity, housing insecurity, and more.

Stats on Economic Stability in the US

In the United States, about 10% of people experience poverty, which puts access to housing, food, and care at risk [1]. Furthermore, people who are unable to keep or find a job often face more struggles than those with a steady income [1]. This means that patients with disabilities or conditions that limit their ability to work may be more likely to face economic instability [1]. However, people who can keep a steady income may still be unable to afford the lifestyle they need to be healthy. Around 10% of U.S. citizens are unable to afford basic needs [2]. This can mean living in poor living conditions or not being able to access healthy food or even clean water [2]. Therefore, it’s clear that a problem affecting around 40 million people in the U.S. [2] must be addressed. Furthermore, healthcare solutions must take into consideration the potential detriments that patients may face.

Lack of Economic Stability Worsens Health

Economic stability plays a big role in healthcare and overall well-being. For instance, financial pressure alone can cause increased anxiety and stress [3]. This can mean that patients have to choose to focus on where they’ll get their next meal or how they’ll pay for rent before they’re able to figure out how to afford their treatments [3]. Furthermore, having a limited income can mean that patients have to opt to live in unhealthier and even dangerous conditions. This can range from being unable to afford air conditioning to living in a building with mold [3].

Therefore, it’s no surprise that patients facing poverty who are dealing with food and even housing insecurity also go without health care. This can be detrimental because prolonging healthcare can make it even harder and potentially more expensive to treat conditions later [3]. Furthermore, when patients with limited economic stability receive care, they may end up with medical debt. Unfortunately, medical debt disproportionately affects people of color [3]. This means they may have higher medical debt than people living in white communities [3]. In the long run, this can also lead to an increased risk of mental health issues, as well as worsening preexisting conditions [3].

economic stability

Supporting patients Who Lack Economic Stability

Although more policies, awareness, and community support are needed to help people out of poverty, it is questionable how long that will take. In the meantime, healthcare professionals need to be constantly aware that some of their patients may be lacking economic stability. One of the most important things doctors can do is screen and create assessment tools to identify patients who may need more support. Identifying these needs early on can help promote interventions and referrals that address patients’ specific needs. For instance, resources can be provided for supplementary income, food banks, and even shelters. This can also be done by collaborating with community organizations and social service agencies to ensure that patients receive the support they need.

Additionally, it’s important to remember these barriers to care when prescribing medicine. For instance, medications often mention that they must be taken with food. However, if a patient lacks access to food, it may be crucial to connect them with food banks, or even to prescribe another medicine that is still effective but won’t be as harmful if taken on an empty stomach. Furthermore, healthcare providers need to not only help patients feel empowered to advocate for themselves, but they also need to educate patients about health literacy. This can help patients realize the importance of receiving support and can help them adhere to their treatments. Overall, economic instability is an issue that most likely isn’t going away anytime soon. However, healthcare providers can coordinate with their communities to ensure that patients receive the support they need. More importantly, healthcare providers can support patients in advocating for themselves.


HITS provides healthcare management services & works with doctors to develop health informatics tools that promote safe and secure care. We take pride in our services and settle for nothing other than 100% quality solutions for our clients. Having the right team assist with data sharing is crucial to encouraging collaborative and secure care. HITS also focuses on transforming health care by analyzing integrated medical solutions and evaluating information systems. Our goal is to enhance individual and population health outcomes, improve patient care, and strengthen the clinician-patient relationship.


  1. https://health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/browse-objectives/economic-stability 
  2. https://medium.com/@brichards88/tens-of-millions-of-americans-cannot-afford-food-what-can-we-do-about-it-b395abc0b205#:~:text=Astonishingly%2C%20at%20least%2010%20percent,able%20to%20afford%20basic%20needs
  3. https://a816-dohbesp.nyc.gov/IndicatorPublic/data-stories/economic-stability/
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