Leadership Blog

Introducing the Political Determinants of Health

Introducing the Political Determinants of Health

How PAs Can Advocate for Better Health Outcomes for Us All

Did you know the practice of medicine is a political act?

Let me explain. As educators, researchers, and clinicians, we know that our health and wellness is shaped by social, economic, and environmental factors. However, we often overlook the role of our government—including policies, systems, and community structures—in shaping the social determinants of health. Legislative and policy choices at the local, state, and federal levels coalesce to determine health outcomes for us all. This is most evident in communities that have been continuously marginalized and systemically oppressed, where residents suffer the greatest consequences from health inequity and environmental injustice.

It is not enough to simply identify the upstream causes of poor health; as clinicians, it is our responsibility to advocate for our patients and address the political determinants of health.

PAEA members regularly reaffirm their commitment to addressing justice, equity, and inclusion in their programs and communities. However, many tell us they struggle with determining how to act to effect change. That’s why I am excited to welcome Morehouse School of Medicine’s Executive Director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and author of The Political Determinants of Health, Daniel Dawes, JD, as a 2022 PAEA Education Forum Spotlight Speaker. In his Forum presentation, Dawes will discuss how political decisions lead to social conditions and provide a playbook for how we can effectively address systemic barriers.

As scientists and clinicians, we must advocate for change. Empowering our members to advance health for all is foundational to PAEA’s mission. Our profession is 140,000 PAs strong—we have a voice, and we must use it.