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Power and participation: How community health centers address the determinants of the social determinants of health

M. Cole, M. Jolliffe, C. So-Armah, B. Gottlieb
NEJM Catalyst

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed and intensified health inequities that caused disproportionately higher rates of infection, morbidity, and mortality in marginalized and disadvantaged communities, along with greater social and economic devastation. At the same time, highly visible violence against Black people, including multiple killings by police, highlighted race and racism as a pivotal social determinant of health (SDOH). The authors describe the response of a community health center that serves a largely Latinx population. Brookside Community Health Center adapted and redesigned health care to better address SDOH, reaching beyond the traditional social determinants to address underlying factors, the drivers of those SDOH: fortifying social networks and social cohesion, political power, political voice, and protest. Brookside Community Health Center’s work exemplifies the historic mission of community health centers, which defines health in the broadest of terms and recognizes the connections among health, human rights, and political power and participation.

Cole M, Jolliffe M, So -Armah Cynthia, Gottlieb B. Power and Participation: How Community Health Centers Address the Determinants of the Social Determinants of Health. NEJM Catalyst. 3(1). doi: 10.1056/CAT.21.0303.

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