The Social Determinants of Health Project

Major Research Questions
What neighborhood characteristics are associated with health outcomes?

Does having insurance change the effect that your neighborhood has on your health?
Jeanene Smith, Ph.D., Office for Oregon Health Policy and Research
Heidi Allen, Ph.D., Columbia University
Janne Boone-Heinonen, Ph.D., Oregon Health and Science University
Matthew Carlson, Ph.D., Portland State University
Katherine Baicker, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health
Project Timeline
2010 - Summer 2013
When can we expect to see results?
Results will be published in late 2013

Additional Information

What are the Social Determinants of Health?
A person’s health is influenced by all different kinds of things, such as your genes, your choices (such as whether to smoke or how often to exercise), and your ability to access care. But people are paying more and more attention to how a person’s social situation—the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age—might affect health. These factors are called the social determinants of health.

What is the Social Determinants of Health Project?
During the Oregon Health Study, we asked people to tell us about their health and health care experiences as individuals who did and did not receive access to health insurance. The more we listened, the more we realized that insurance is only one piece of the puzzle. Sometimes, a person’s neighborhood or social situation might have made it easier or harder for that person to adopt healthy behaviors, such as exercise or eating more fruits and vegetables.

With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, CORE collected neighborhood data at the census tract level. We randomly samples one-third of the streets in Portland and audited those streets for "walkability" elements such as pedestrian safety, tree cover, walking destinations, quality of the sidewalks, and graffiti or other signs of incivility. We then mapped neighborhoods according to their walkability, and we also mapped them according to the level of access to transit, access to fresh healthy food, and sociodemographic characteristics. Next, we’ll layer health data over the neighborhood data to see which neighborhood features are most associated with health outcomes.

After that first mapping analysis, we’ll conduct a second analysis to measure whether people are more or less likely to benefit from health insurance depending on where they live.

To learn more about this project, contact us.