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From Apathy to Structural Competency and the Right to Health: An Institutional Ethnography of a Maternal and Child Wellness Center.

Given the persistence of health inequities in the United States, scholars and health professionals alike have turned to the social determinants of health (SDH) framework to understand the overlapping factors that produce and shape these inequities. However, there is scant empirical literature on how frontline health and social service workers perceive and apply the SDH framework, or related movements such as the right to health, in their daily practice. Our study seeks to bridge this gap by applying constructs from the sociological imagination and structural competency (an emerging paradigm in health professions' education) to understand the perspectives and experiences of social work case managers, community health workers, legal advocates, and mental health counselors at a maternal and child health center in a large US city. This frontline workforce displayed strong sociological imagination, elements of structural competency, and engagement with the principles of the right to health. Workers shared reflections on the SDH framework in ways that signaled promising opportunities for frontline workers to link with the global movement for the right to health. We offer a novel approach to understanding the relationships between frontline worker perspectives on and experiences with the SDH, sociological imagination, structural competency, and the right to health.

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