U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Chris Murphy and Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán Introduce Legislation to Improve Conditions Exacerbating Health Inequities Among Black, Brown, Indigenous and People of Color

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.-44) introduced legislation to study and address how social, environmental, and economic conditions exacerbate health inequities in Black, Brown, Indigenous, and people of color. These conditions, known as social determinants of health (SDOH), are the result of institutional racism embedded in our society including in housing, employment, education, health care and more. While it’s often believed that good health is only due to medical care, one estimate found that clinical treatment accounts for only 10 to 20 percent of an individual’s overall health. Meanwhile, around 80 to 90 percent of healthy outcomes are driven by social determinants.

“For many Black, Brown, Indigenous and people of color, health outcomes like chronic disease and overall longevity are determined by factors out of their control, often rooted in institutional racism and lasting inequities. Supporting healthy families and communities means more than just access tomedical care – it’s also having a safe place to call home, jobs, adequate food and more,” said Senator Smith. “This legislation will help us chart a better path forward to rectify historical injustices and ensure everyone has the chance to live a healthy life.”

“When you don’t have a safe, stable place to live, or you can’t find affordable, nutritious food in your neighborhood, you’re more likely to develop chronic health issues that cost you thousands in medical bills. These structural inequities disproportionately impact communities of color and can have really devastating consequences for peoples’ health. I’m glad to team up with Senator Smith on this legislation to make a worthwhile investment in helping communities create healthy environments and improve long-term health outcomes,” said Senator Murphy.

“Social, economic, and environmental factors play a role in our health and can lead to increased rates of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer,” said Rep. Barragán. “These social determinants of health contribute to disparities in health outcomes and access to care, and low-income families and communities of color are disproportionately affected. In my district, which is one of the most polluted districts in the nation, we have high rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Unfortunately, our health care system is largely focused on short-term solutions for these deep-rooted issues. The Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 2024 will address a critical need by improving the capacity of public health agencies and community-based organizations to collaborate on long-term solutions for our communities.”

“Social determinants of health, including housing, employment, food security, transportation, and education, contribute significantly to people’s health outcomes over their lifetime. Communities need more flexible and cross-cutting resources to address these factors that if unaddressed can lead to poor health. CDC’s SDOH program has already assisted dozens of communities in creating SDOH plans and now needs the resources to allow additional grantees to implement these community tailored plans,” said Dr. Nadine Gracia, President and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “Public health plays an important role in convening partners from different sectors and trusted community leaders to address these non-medical drivers of health. This legislation is an important step in improving health outcomes, reducing overall healthcare spending, and helping reduce health disparities. TFAH is proud to support this bill.”

The Improving Social Determinants of Health Act is endorsed by more than 150 organizations across the country. This legislation will:

  • Authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a program to improve health outcomes, reduce health inequities, and improve capacity of public health agencies and community organizations to address SDOHs. 
  • Coordinate across CDC to ensure programs consider and incorporate social determinants of health in grants and activities.
  • Award grants to state, local, territorial, and Tribal health agencies to address social determinants of health in target communities.
  • Award grants to nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education to conduct research on best practices for addressing the social determinants of health.
  • Coordinate, support, and align social determinant of health activities at the CDC with other federal agencies.
  • Collect and analyze data related to social determinant of health activities.
  • Authorize $100 million annually for program activities. 

In addition to Senators Smith and Murphy, this legislation is cosponsored by Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Peter Welch (D-Vt), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in the Senate.

You can read a summary of the bill here and bill text here.