For decades, researchers have been piecing together the unfortunate reality that wide-ranging societal factors affect people’s health.

It’s still too early to know precisely how these things impact heart disease, stroke and other major health problems.

But, as work continues to fully understand these relationships, there’s no denying the very real effects of these factors known as “social determinants of health.” These factors include culture, education, income, access to health care, housing and environment.

Here’s a look at some efforts around the nation to better understand and address these problems:

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In the Denver area, Colorado Black Health Collaborative, Inc., works with physicians, fitness instructors, nutritionists and other medical and wellness professionals to promote healthy habits.

Internist Terri Richardson, M.D., a board member with the Aurora-based nonprofit, said it’s important to recognize the way someone’s job, access to neighborhood parks, availability of public transportation and other conditions may impact health.

“When people think about disease, they think, ‘well, if I’m overweight or obese, I eat too much,’” said Richardson, who works with Kaiser Permanente and has been a physician for 30 years. “People don’t often think, ‘if I have educational attainment, that’s going to impact my health.’”

One of the group’s health education projects is a blood pressure and diabetes check program at salons and barbershops.

Longtime hairstylist Rosalyn Redwine of Denver found the experience to be quite the education.

She knows firsthand how important it is for people to know their health numbers, such as blood pressure and blood sugar. She said her mother never checked hers, and by the time she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, there’s wasn’t much doctors could do.

Rosalyn Redwine (Photo by Terri Richardson, M.D.)

Despite her story, at the salon, some of her clients resisted.

“I think that it was fear that made them not want to check their blood pressure, to know how their cholesterol was running for fear of going on medication — of then having to change their diet and lifestyle and the way they eat,” she said. “Because once you have high cholesterol, and when you have high blood pressure, you have to change the way you eat if you want to live.”

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By:  AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

© 2015 Colorado Black Health Collaborative
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