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Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in Substance Use Prevention

We have long known that substance use is driven by a complex set of factors and circumstances. Each of our decisions is influenced by our circumstances, consciously and unconsciously. That’s why substance use prevention should be comprehensive – addressing as many of the primary drivers of substance use as possible. Recently, there has been a push to encourage health care stakeholders to focus on how the context of our lives affects our health, notably in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Healthy People 2030 initiative. The factors that comprise this context are referred to collectively as the social determinants of health (SDOH). This brief will explain the SDOH, map the concept of SDOH onto more “traditional” prevention frameworks, and explain how substance use prevention can play a role in such large-scale changes.