Drivers of Health
What makes us healthy?
We have an intuitive sense that things like what we eat, how much we exercise, the quality of our water and air, and getting appropriate health care when sick all help us stay healthy, but how much do each of these factors matter?
Studies have also shown that our incomes, education, even racial identity are associated with health — so-called “social determinants of health.”
How much do social determinants matter? How much does the health system improve our health?
In the 1970s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to answer these questions but had little rigorous science to guide it. Though we know a great deal more today, they still have not been fully answered. This is no mere curiosity — knowing what makes us healthy will help us direct investments into the right programs.
Over the years, many frameworks have been developed to illuminate what affects health. The relationships are so complex that no single framework captures everything. To get us started on this research project — and our broader conversation about what drives health — we created a model that allows us to explore some of the dimensions of these drivers, and their relationships to each other.
Drivers of Health is a one-year research and education project aimed at improving our understanding of the social determinants of health. It is run by the Harvard Global Health Institute, a research driven, university-wide entity that facilitates multidisciplinary, collaborative approaches to tackling global health challenges, and made possible with generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the United States’ largest philanthropic organization devoted to health.