September 8, 2021
Earlier this summer, a bipartisan group of legislators announced a new congressional caucus to address the social determinants of health – non-medical factors that impact health. Led by Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Tom Cole (R-OK), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), and Markwayne Mullin (R-IN), the formation of the caucus followed the spring introduction of legislation – Social Determinants Accelerator Act (HR 2503). The bill would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish an interagency council on social determinants of health and would allocate $153 million over the next five years to relevant local government projects.
This new caucus is a clear sign of appreciation for social and behavioral research, and an important opportunity to highlight the value of our sciences as well as the gaps in research, to Members of Congress.
COVID has provided a harsh spotlight on health disparities in our country, bringing attention to the social and behavioral factors that contribute to individual and community health outcomes. A critical component to improving health and addressing disparities requires additional investment in the research to gain a better understanding of social determinants. In a recent report, “Trans-NIH Research Opportunities in the Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences” the working group identified ‘social interactions and influences on health’ as a promising and emerging area of research that is underfunded at NIH and particularly on the influence of dyads, families, and small group interactions and networks on health.