Background Information

NIH Community Listening Sessions to Transform Health Disparities and Advance Equity

Listening Session Goal:  Seek your perspectives on opportunities, challenges, and community needs related to interventions targeting social factors that influence health disparities including education, healthcare, financial resources, neighborhood environments, and social context.  

Reducing health disparities to improve health outcomes is a complex challenge that extends far beyond the reach of traditional health care settings.  Research consistently shows the important role of social determinants of health on a variety of health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, neurological diseases, and obesity, among others. Simplified, social determinants of health are described as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These social factors include: education, socioeconomic status, neighborhood, early life adversities, housing, social support, social norms, employment status, access to healthcare, community and neighborhood characteristics, among others.  HealthyPeople2030 classifies these factors into 5 categories including:
  • Economic stability
  • Education access and quality
  • Neighborhood and built environment
  • Social and community context
  • Health care access and quality

Interventions that attempt to intervene on these social determinants of health by altering the social, physical, economic, or political environments may influence health behaviors and outcomes.  By intervening on these factors, interventions can attempt to shape the larger social context that contribute to health disparities. They target factors such as economic instability, limited educational and employment opportunity, societal racism, systemic discrimination, and lack of community resources, which limit neighborhoods’ access to healthy food, clean water, physical activity spaces, transportation, and health care. 


Examples of interventions that aim to improve the root causes of poor health outcomes include:

  • Community revitalization programs in poor, low-resourced communities, including improvements in park spaces and abandoned property renovations
  • Minimum wage increases to support the living wage of community members
  • Policy change to improve access to healthy foods such as the Green Carts Initiative in NYC and the Minneapolis Staple Food Ordinance
  • Programs to support early childcare professionals to adopt practices and encourage better choices about where early care and education program are placed to reduce exposure to dangerous environmental exposures during their care


For more information:

We look forward to learning of your insights and perspectives in one of the upcoming listening sessions.