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Fighting the Flu

Why Social Determinants of Health Matter During Flu Season

Many in the United States lack access to basic necessities which, during flu season, poses a risk to public health as well as their own.

Stable housing, access to heat, healthy food, and reliable transportation are each examples of “social determinants of health,” which many Americans go without. In light of these factors, getting the influenza vaccination can become a lower priority and remain unaddressed. Social determinants impact health, however, so it is these same people who often benefit the most from the flu shot.

Researchers in North Carolina noted that “social determinants strongly influenced respiratory infections in the United States, including influenza.”

The flu is especially dangerous for those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or chronic lung disease. Rates of hospitalization and even death due to flu are increased for those with these conditions.

These complex issues create barriers to important preventative care measures like the flu shot, meaning that addressing this population’s unmet medical, behavioral, and social needs is crucial, especially during the flu season.  

The social determinants that can impede a person from accessing vaccinations need to be identified and addressed. Attending to the concerns of low-income communities or those who speak languages other than English is essential to building trust and protecting public health. Everyone must understand that the influenza vaccination offers protection for themselves and those around them, especially those who are at increased risk for the flu as well.

Managing barriers to care created by social determinants of health helps protect everyone in the community during flu season and throughout the year.

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