Language as a Social Determinant of Health

Health inequalities experienced by Culturally, Ethnically and Linguistically Diverse people in the context of Covid-19



social determinants of health, language, Covid-19, CEALD, social work


The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated health inequalities globally, indicating the need to reframe our understanding of the primary determinants of health as social and reveal the systematic link between health disparities and underlying social disadvantage (Bywaters 2009, p. 354). The social determinants of health (SDOH) provide a lens by which to interrogate the very “nature of society that leads to and tolerates inequalities in general” (Marmot 2017, p. 539). Accordingly, applying the SDOH to the Covid-19 context necessitates an understanding of the structural determinants that contributed to the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on vulnerable populations (Paremoer, Nandi, Serag & Baum 2021, p. 1). This paper will apply the SDOH of language, to the experiences of Culturally, Ethnically and Linguistically Diverse (CEALD) people in western Sydney, New South Wales (NSW), during the Covid-19 pandemic. An upstream lens will transcend reductionist conceptions of language as a deficit implicated in the current crisis, to instead interrogate how language is manifested as a broader factor in the marginalisation of CEALD people. In turn, it will be argued that incorporating the SDOH into social work practice can critically challenge the injustices perpetuated by the monolingual dominance of the English language.

Author Biography

Christy Fernance, The University of Sydney

Bachelor of Social Work & Bachelor of Arts Student


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Student Papers exploring social justice