Women’s health goes beyond biological differences to encompass gendered effects on health and disease. Understanding women’s environmental, socio-economic, and life circumstances helps us provide more effective care. Poverty, homelessness, interpersonal violence, trauma and structural racism can drastically impact women’s health in ways that differ from men’s experiences. Women face unique barriers to accessing healthcare and engaging in preventive health behaviors. Further, women’s gendered exposure to chronic stress can lead to an increased burden of chronic disease. The UN World Health Organization defines social determinants of health as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” Social determinants often underlie health inequities such as women’s disproportionate exposure to trauma or poorer health outcomes in people experiencing housing insecurity. Studies have shown that when such health inequities are addressed, overall health improves and overall medical costs are reduced.
Our research focuses on finding and testing ways to address social determinants of health in vulnerable women and training front-line clinicians to address health inequities in their everyday practice. Examples include: