Episode 61: Think Your Health is Determined by Only What You Eat? Guest Michelle Gooden Makes Us Think Again


I often get asked: “David, what are the foods that are going to enhance my health?”  To which I reply that a person’s health is determined by more than just what they eat. So before we start judging what we eat – and let me tell you, we can be quite critical with our own eating habits – stop thinking that you can outsmart your health by just eating kale, shiitake mushrooms, or green tea. Those foods are great, but it won’t miraculously cure your cancer, yet so many people ignore their own bodies and skip meals, live on coffee for breakfast and wine for dinner. Ah yea, that ain’t going to work.

Therefore, for this episode I asked my good friend Michelle Gooden, MS, RDN, FAND to talk to us about health equity, and the Social Determinants of Health (or SHOD for short). One of the best definitions of SDOH comes from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which defines SDOH as “the conditions in the environments where 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.” They point out that there are five (5) main domains that determine these conditions:

5 Main Domains of SDOH

  • Economic Stability
  • Education Access and Quality
  • Health Care Access and Quality
  • Neighborhood and Built Environment
  • Social and Community Context

Social and Emotional Justice
Michelle helps explain the injustices that exist in our society, and how marginalized populations are greatly affected by the health disparities that exist today in various aspects of our lives. From the five domains of economic stability, access to education, and quality health care to the neighborhoods and social constructs in our lives. She uses a simple yet practical analogy of Upstream, Midstream, and Downstream effects of these five main pillars to point out the health inequalities in our society.

A little bit about Michelle – Michelle serves as Dietetic Internship Coordinator for Emory Hospitals Dietetic Internship and Clinical Dietitian at Emory University Hospital. She has worked as a clinical dietitian for ten years and prior to that worked in school nutrition and nonprofit. Clinically, she is primarily responsible for the medical nutrition therapy associated with neurocritical care. In her time at Emory, Michelle has served as educator for dietetic interns, medical students and other healthcare professionals. During her career, Michelle has been awarded Emerging Dietetic Leader for the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year for the Greater Atlanta District of Georgia, been named a finalist in the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Healthcare Heroes in 2020, and has received the Dietitian Officer Award from the United States Public Health Service. Additionally, Michelle served as the Clinical Director for Health Promotions for Special Olympics Georgia. In all her roles, Michelle is passionate about advancing the profession of dietetics through collaboration between medical disciplines, continuous quality improvement assessment and public policy.

We have an excellent conversation that truly explores racial and social injustices through the lens of SDOH. Hope you enjoy this thought provoking conversation episode with Michelle!

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