Social Determinants of Health: the physical, emotional, social, financial, spiritual, and behavioral conditions that affect a person’s overall health.


Addressing social determinants of health is critical for improving the health of vulnerable populations and eliminating health disparities.


Social Determinants of Health
Photo courtesy of PWC

Social determinants of health are the range of factors that influence a person’s health, whether they be personal, social, economic, or environmental. They reach far beyond healthcare itself into sectors like education, transportation, housing, and more.

To improve these important health factors, Utah’s largest hospital and health care system, centers, and IT leaders have joined forces with Utah 211 and its community-based partnerships to build a “closed loop” approach to information and referral. This approach will help clients who are referred to services or resources address their needs, and follow up and see if that patient received the help they needed.

Utah 211 brings together the various partners providing health and services associated with social determinants of health for those in Utah. Staffed by United Way of Salt Lake, United Way of Northern Utah, and United Way of Utah County, Utah 211 has a statewide reach and is the only comprehensive information and referral service in the state. These factors mean Utah 211 is uniquely configured to identify and address the social determinants of health.


Why Utah 211 Cares About Social Determinants of Health

As an organization dedicated to ensuring all people get the assistance they need from organizations throughout the state, Utah 211 works to identify and address social determinants of health, focusing on the whole person: physical, emotional, social, financial, spiritual, and behavioral needs that residents in the state have.

Utah 211 is a service offered to all residents of Utah through collaborative partnerships, whose purpose is to connect individuals in need to the services available to them with a whole person care approach, such as health clinics, food pantries, or affordable housing. Each year over 100,000 contacts are made to 211.

The vast majority of 211 calls relate to one or more areas that comprise social determinants of health, placing 211 in a unique position to serve as the key for an integrated, fully interoperable statewide approach to whole person care. Those efforts will be “grounded” in and targeted to communities with extensive and complex needs.


Bringing Sectors Together to Address Every Utahn’s Whole Health

Social Determinants of HealthUWSL’s programmatic focus on collective impact partnerships is essential in closing the loop to create a system that supports whole person care, placing human relationships and actual needs of individuals and families at the forefront.

Through this collaborative partnership, Utah 211 is working to develop a system that would ideally make use of all relevant and accessible information about a client’s life circumstances and history of interactions with healthcare providers and social services. This will enable providers to efficiently target interventions with a focus on whole person care.

Right now, this is not the case, because different organizations collect patient/client data with different formats, different coding schemes, and different data platforms. This makes it very difficult to link relevant, usable information about a specific patient/client across organizations and over time, making a whole person care approach difficult to enact in Utah. We define such linkages as interoperability.

The lack of interoperability limits statewide efforts to reduce disparities and increase community health accessibility, allowing everyone in the community to achieve optimum health.

This is the precise reason health and social service partners are coming together. It takes the efforts of all types of organizations to truly understand the complexities and impact this work can have on the people of Utah.

Utah 211 is much more than just an information and referral provider. Utah 211 is a leader of collective impact partnerships that will ensure all Utahns have equitable systems in place to thrive.

For more information about Utah 211, visit To become a partner and learn more about how you can get involved with 211’s social determinants of health team, contact Caitlin Schneider at



By Caitlin Schneider, Director of Partnerships at 211 Utah