The environmental conditions in which people are born, live, work, and age, play an important role in shaping health outcomes, and recognizing the importance of social determinants of health can help obstetricians-gynecologists and other health care providers better understand patients and effectively communicate about health-related conditions and behaviors. This according to a new committee opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) on the importance of social determinants of health and cultural awareness in the delivery of reproductive health care. The ACOG offers the following recommendations for OB-GYNs:
- Inquire about and document social and structural determinants of health that may influence a patient’s health and use of health care such as access to stable housing, access to food and safe drinking water, utility needs, safety in the home and community, immigration status, and employment conditions.
- Maximize referrals to social services to help improve patients’ abilities to fulfill these needs.
- Provide access to interpreter services for all patient interactions when patient language is not the clinician’s language.
- Acknowledge that race, institutionalized racism, and other forms of discrimination serve as social determinants of health.
- Recognize that stereotyping patients based on presumed cultural beliefs can negatively affect patient interactions, especially when patients’ behaviors are attributed solely to individual choices without recognizing the role of social and structural factors.
- Advocate for policy changes that promote safe and healthy living environments.
Importance of social determinants of health and cultural awareness in the delivery of reproductive health care. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 729. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol. 2018;131:e43–8.
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ACOG: Chronic Hypertension in Pregnancy, Obstet Gynecol; ePub 2019 Jan; Vidaeff, et al
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Management of Early Pregnancy Loss, Obstet Gynecol; ePub 2018 Nov; ACOG
Prophylactic Antibiotic Use in Labor & Delivery, Obstet Gynecol; 2018 Sep; Coleman, et al
USPSTF on Screening for Cervical Cancer, JAMA; 2018 Aug 21; US Preventive Services Task Force