Getting at the 40 Percent: Addressing the Greatest Determinants of Long-Term Recovery

According to the World Health Organization, 40 percent of good health is determined by social and economic factors such as family and social support, education, employment, income and community safety. In comparison, clinical care accounts for only 20 percent of good health outcomes. With understanding that such a significant chunk of health and wellness is determined by social and economic factors rather than solely clinical care, it is of great importance that we apply this knowledge to how we view and facilitate opportunities for long-term recovery from substance use related challenges.

As our nation currently scurries to adequately address a condition that has grown to become the number one cause of accidental death in the country, it is of dire importance that we look well beyond focusing only on clinical care for substance use challenges and instead investigate further how to better equip communities to serve as fertile ground for recovery. An individual and their family could receive the highest quality of clinical care available for the longest duration possible, but if we do not improve access to the even more significant good health determinants such as education and income, we cannot expect to see lasting results.

Right now, for example, many people seeking recovery from substance use related challenges face significant barriers in their communities when it comes to accessing employment. An extraordinary number of employers still discriminate against individuals with criminal backgrounds that are often a direct result of the draconian criminalization of their substance use challenges. Without access to employment and income, we know that the chances of sustaining good health are tremendously diminished. If we truly wish to see good health outcomes for individuals seeking recovery, we must expand our thinking and get at the 40 percent of determining factors. While there are a number of areas in which we must direct our focus, increasing access to employment and income would certainly be a really great place to start.