Determinants of Health

Health is more than medical care

89% of health occurs outside of the clinical space through our genetics, behavior, environment and social circumstances. These factors are known as the social determinants of health. Despite their importance, attempts to integrate the determinants into a single visualization have been limited.

GoInvo identified this gap based on their extensive work as a healthcare design studio and conducted a literature review of sources (World Health Organization and the Kaiser Family Foundation) and face to face interviews with public policy analysts, health IT experts, and clinical professionals. Relying on their experience of mapping complex systems within healthcare, GoInvo created a comprehensive open source visualization of the social determinants of health.

Tap the categories to explore

Individual Behavior

Smoking habits, sleep and exercise patterns, sexual activity, and mood levels are all examples of individual behavior, which is a critical determinant for our physical health, mental health, and overall well being. Positive changes to our individual behavior can reduce the risk for developing a variety of diseases, and many public health interventions have already focused on altering dangerous behaviors.

Psychological Assets

  • Conscientiousness level
  • Self-efficacy
  • Optimism level
  • Life satisfaction level
  • Cognitive function in late life

Negative Mood and Affects

  • Stress level
  • Hopelessness level
  • Anxiety level
  • Depression level

Other Risk Related Behavior

  • Gun behavior
  • Sexual activity
  • Motor vehicle behavior

Physical Activity

Sleep Patterns

Diet Patterns

The Determinants of Health is available as a poster, an installation, a download, and an interactive visualization.

About GoInvo

GoInvo is a healthcare design company that crafts innovative digital and physical solutions. GoInvo’s deep expertise in Health IT, Genomics, and Open Source health has delivered results for the National Institute of Health, Walgreens, Mount Sinai and Partner Healthcare. Reach out for a custom installation or feedback.


Below is a description of the methodology used in creating the Determinants of Health visualization. It is also a record of versioned updates to the methodology and visualization based on continuing research and feedback. Thank you to those who have reached out and helped identify areas to improve.

v1 - 26.Jul.2017

The 5 main determinants of health (genetics, medical care, social circumstances, environment, and individual behavior) were chosen due to their consistency across the following 7 out of 8 organizations:

  • WHO2
  • Healthy People3
  • Kaiser Family Foundation4
  • NEJM5
  • Health Affairs6
  • Institute of Medicine7
  • New South Wales Department of Health8

The lists of determinants published from each of the previously mentioned organizations were compiled and compared1 - 8. There was no standard in terms of the number of determinants, hierarchical organization of the determinants, and the naming for the determinants (for example, quality of housing3 vs residence quality7). The most thorough publication for the determinants came from the Institute of Medicine report7. Therefore this was the primary source from which the list of 95 determinants within the visualization originated.

The section below documents our analysis of the data and how we calculated the final impact percentages for the 5 main categories of determinants.

The relative contribution of each of the determinant categories to one’s health was found using the estimated values referenced by the seven primary sources listed below.

Each determinant category was then averaged based on the values from each of the aforementioned sources (the methodology in the primary sources were different depending on the source. The final percentages should therefore be an estimate and not be viewed as absolute numbers).

Behavior: (50 + 38 + 40 + 39 + 36 + 45 + 30) / 7 = 39.71*
Social: (15 + 40) / 2 = 27.5
Genetics: (20 + 30) / 2 = 25
Medical care: (10 + 10 + 20) / 3 = 13.33
Environment: (20 + 7 + 5 + 5.4 + 3 + 10) / 6 = 8.4

*An original miscalculation of 'Behavior' has been rectified. The following values have subsequently been updated.

The ratio for each determinant was then found by taking the average values found for each of the determinant categories and dividing them by the total determinant value.

Behavior: 39.71 / 113.94 = 34.85%
Social: 27.5 / 113.94 = 24.14%
Genetics: 25 / 113.94 = 21.94%
Medical care: 13.33 / 113.94 = 11.70%
Environment: 8.4 / 113.94 = 7.37%
Total: 34.85 + 24.14 + 21.94 + 11.70 + 7.37 = 100%

The final percentages are as follows.

Behavioral determinants at 35%.
Social determinants at 24%.
Genetic determinants at 22%.
Medical care determinants at 12%.
Environmental determinants at 7%.

v2 - 30.Aug.2017

The following are updated calculations for the relative contributions of each of the determinant categories. The relative contribution of each of the determinant categories to one’s health was found using the values referenced from the six sources listed below.

Each determinant category value is an average based on adding the values from each of the aforementioned sources.

Behavior: (50% [9] + 42% [10] + 40% [11] + 45% [12] + 30% [15]) / 5 = 41.4%
Social: (15% [11] + 40% [15]) / 2 = 27.5%
Genetics: (20% [9] + 30% [11]) / 2 = 25%
Medical care: (10% [9] + 10% [11] + 20% [15]) / 3 = 13.33...%
Environment: (20% [9] + 3% [10] + 5% [11] + 3.9% [14] + 10% [15]) / 5 = 8.38%

Additional notes on the determinant category values: For source10, The environmental value of ~3% was based on dividing toxic agent deaths (60,000 deaths. Toxic agents were defined as occupational hazards, environmental pollutants, contaminants of food and water supplies, and components of commercial products) divided by total deaths for that year (2,120,000).

The average values found for each of the determinant categories were each divided by the total determinant value.

Total value: 41.4% + 27.5% + 25% + 13.33...% + 8.38% = 115.6133
Behavior: 41.4% / 115.6133... = 35.81%
Social: 27.5% / 115.6133... = 23.79%
Genetics: 25% / 115.6133... = 21.62%
Medical care: 13.33...% / 115.6133... = 11.53%
Environment: 8.38% / 115.6133... = 7%

The final percentages are as follows.

Behavioral determinants at 36%
Social determinants at 24%
Genetic determinants at 22%
Medical care determinants at 11% (rounded down)
Environmental determinants at 7%

Additional Change


Race and ethnicity have been removed from the biology section due to a lack of standard objective criteria in the scientific community surrounding the use of genetics to define race and ethnicity. It has been added to the Social Circumstance section due to its continued social importance in describing groups based on similar characteristics. View the following literature for additional detail:

  • Fujimura, J. H., & Rajagopalan, R. (2010). Different differences: The use of ‘genetic ancestry’ versus race in biomedical human genetic research. Social Studies of Science, 41(1), 5-30. doi:10.1177/0306312710379170
  • Long, J. C., & Kittles, R. A. (2003). Human Genetic Diversity and the Nonexistence of Biological Races. Human Biology, 75(4), 449-471. doi:10.1353/hub.2003.0058
  • AR, T. (2013). Biological races in humans. [Abstract]. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci, 262-271. Retrieved February 14, 2018, from
  • Caprio, S., Daniels, S. R., Drewnowski, A., Kaufman, F. R., Palinkas, L. A., Rosenbloom, A. L.,... Kirkman, M. S. (2008). Influence of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture on Childhood Obesity: Implications for Prevention and Treatment. Obesity, 16(12), 2566-2577. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.398

Discrimination can be further subdivided into racial, ethnic, gender, sexuality, and age based discrimination.

Poster images have been updated based on the updated Aug 2017 calculations.


Edwin Choi, GoInvo

Edwin is a biologist turned designer. Combining the sciences and art, he orchestrates healthcare software experiences to be beautiful and clinically refined. Edwin joined Invo in 2015, is a graduate of University of Washington, and has a masters in biomedical design from Johns Hopkins University.

Juhan Sonin, GoInvo, MIT

Juhan specialized in software design and system engineering. He operates, and is the director of, GoInvo. He has worked at Apple, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and MITRE. Juhan co-founded Invo Boston in 2009 and is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He currently lectures at MIT.


Hrothgar, GoInvo

Hrothgar is a designer and engineer. Trained as a mathematician, he combines elegance and rigor in software development and interface design. Hrothgar is a graduate of Rice University, and joined Invo in 2016 following doctoral studies at the University of Oxford.

Kelsey Kittelsen, Dartmouth College

Kelsey is a designer and engineer. She specializes in taking an analytical approach to problem solving while focusing on human needs. She is currently studying engineering with a concentration in human-centered design and product development at Dartmouth College.


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