In order to address the effect of social conditions and poverty on health, the U.S. government has developed the social determinants of health, which are defined as “conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” These conditions include access to safe and affordable housing, healthy food, social support networks, educational and job opportunities, and public safety.
Federal and state governments operate social service programs that, although separate from publicly funded health care programs, help address the social determinants of health. There are three main types of social service programs: income assistance, which provides mostly cash benefits; nutrition assistance, which provides food or vouchers to purchase food; and housing assistance, which provides subsidies for mostly renters. Within each of these categories, there are a wide range of programs that serve different subsets of the population and offer different benefit packages.
This report compares trends in spending for social services and health care, trends in per capita spending, the number of people receiving services, and an overview and trends in spending for each major social service area-nutrition assistance, housing assistance, and income assistance.