Research supports what most Americans understand intuitively: A person’s health is strongly linked to where they live, learn, work and play. These variables, often stratified by race, are known as social determinants of health (SDOH), and they include everything from education and employment to food, transportation and safety.1 To see SDOH in action, consider that during the pandemic women with health and economic challenges experienced worsening health conditions that, Kaiser Family Foundation researchers warn, could translate into higher numbers of severe health issues in the near future.2 
From both an ethical and business perspective, the case for change is clear and urgent. And, indeed, many health payers and large employers have made diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives a top priority. SDOH, meanwhile, have become an increasingly central part of conversations about lessening disparities and improving access and care.
But when it comes to improving women’s health, the solution won’t happen only through a SDOH stance or only through DEI initiatives. Rather, women’s health equity requires an integrated approach that recognizes making progress in SDOH and DEI are often mutually reinforcing.
From Alzheimer’s to osteoporosis, migraines to strokes, women face higher risks than men for many health conditions – sometimes, in part, because of biological factors, but also shaped by social disadvantages, including gender bias in medical research and clinical care, and uneven health literacy. 3,4,5,6 Heart disease, for instance, is the No. 1 killer of American women, responsible for 1 in 5 female deaths.7 Yet there’s no physical reason women should die from heart attacks at higher rates than men. In fact, a study in the Journal of American Heart Association found that when women receive the same interventions as men, their survival rate is the same.8 

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