Social determinants of health are physical and social structures that comprise the environmental backdrop of people’s lives, and can promote or undermine health and well-being. Together, these social determinants shape the quality of life for people across the tiers of the social ecology and determine whether people experience the risk or protective factors of the Key Strengths.
The term social ecology comes from public health, and describes the organic, interactive organization of people’s relationships within and across different sized groups. These relationships include individuals’ relationship to self, individuals with each other, as well as networks of communities all the way up to the whole of society.
There are lots of risk and protective factors that influence individuals’ and communities’ experiences of violence, and we’ve grouped them into six clusters that we call Key Strengths. Each cluster contains related influences that can be thought of as risk factors (when things aren’t going well for a person or community), or as protective factors (when things are going well).
Focusing our IPV prevention efforts on the Key Strengths is like using a specialized water-treatment strategy to address the contaminants in the groundwater – bolstering the protective factors and mitigating the risk factors pulls the water up from underground to whatever level of the social ecology a strategy aims to affect, shifts the social determinants of health to be more equitable, and then sends it back down a little cleaner so it can continue to benefit everyone, everywhere.
For each key strength, you will see data and statistics known as health indicators. These are measurable characteristics that demonstrate the health of a population (e.g. mortality rates or incidence) or a measurable factor that contributes to the health of a population (e.g. access to healthcare or socio-economic status.) The indicators included with each key strength are meant to illustrate what risk and protective factors look like within populations.
We use the indicators to determine whether public health violence prevention initiatives have positive outcomes for the people of NC. Current measures give us a snapshot of the health of a population in a community or state, and by looking at year over year differences in measurements we can see trends over time.