Combining nonclinical determinants of health and clinical data for research and evaluation: Rapid review

Elizabeth Golembiewski, Katie S. Allen, Amber M. Blackmon, Rachel J. Hinrichs, Joshua R. Vest

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Background: Nonclinical determinants of health are of increasing importance to health care delivery and health policy. Concurrent with growing interest in better addressing patients’ nonmedical issues is the exponential growth in availability of data sources that provide insight into these nonclinical determinants of health. Objective: This review aimed to characterize the state of the existing literature on the use of nonclinical health indicators in conjunction with clinical data sources. Methods: We conducted a rapid review of articles and relevant agency publications published in English. Eligible studies described the effect of, the methods for, or the need for combining nonclinical data with clinical data and were published in the United States between January 2010 and April 2018. Additional reports were obtained by manual searching. Records were screened for inclusion in 2 rounds by 4 trained reviewers with interrater reliability checks. From each article, we abstracted the measures, data sources, and level of measurement (individual or aggregate) for each nonclinical determinant of health reported. Results: A total of 178 articles were included in the review. The articles collectively reported on 744 different nonclinical determinants of health measures. Measures related to socioeconomic status and material conditions were most prevalent (included in 90% of articles), followed by the closely related domain of social circumstances (included in 25% of articles), reflecting the widespread availability and use of standard demographic measures such as household income, marital status, education, race, and ethnicity in public health surveillance. Measures related to health-related behaviors (eg, smoking, diet, tobacco, and substance abuse), the built environment (eg, transportation, sidewalks, and buildings), natural environment (eg, air quality and pollution), and health services and conditions (eg, provider of care supply, utilization, and disease prevalence) were less common, whereas measures related to public policies were rare. When combining nonclinical and clinical data, a majority of studies associated aggregate, area-level nonclinical measures with individual-level clinical data by matching geographical location. Conclusions: A variety of nonclinical determinants of health measures have been widely but unevenly used in conjunction with clinical data to support population health research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12846
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Inequalities
  • Population characteristics
  • Social conditions
  • Social determinants of health
  • Socioeconomic factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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