The following excerpt comes from an August 9, 2017, article by Sara Heath on Patient Engagement HIT.
The social determinants of health are the factors that affect health outside of the four walls of the hospital. Housing, social services, geographical location, and education are some of the most common social determinants of health.
These factors have a significant impact on the current healthcare landscape. As more healthcare organizations deliver value-based healthcare, they are developing strategies to drive wellness care.
Organizations are catering to patient needs outside of the hospital with the goal of keeping patients healthy in the long-run. Patients who have better health support in their daily lives may be less likely to fall ill and require an expensive medical intervention.
But what are the specific social determinants of health? Which examples are most common? And how can healthcare organizations and community partners act on these determinants?
Socioeconomic factors can encompass several different social determinants of health. Poverty can limit access to healthy food, safe neighborhoods, and good schools, among other things. Most prominently, poverty affects housing.
Although individuals can lose reliable housing for a number of reasons – trauma, violence, mental illness, addiction, or another chronic health issue – poverty remains a notable factor driving homelessness.
Hospitals treating a large homeless patient population can forge partnerships with housing departments to help drive housing in the community. Housing development partners can help place individuals who are homeless in houses and offer support that will help individuals maintain that housing.
“Access to safe, quality, affordable housing – and the supports necessary to maintain that housing – constitute one of the most basic and powerful social determinants of health,” wrote the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) in a 2014 white paper.
“Supportive Housing, an evidence-based practice that combines permanent affordable housing with comprehensive and flexible support services, is increasingly recognized as a cost-effective health intervention for homeless and other extremely vulnerable populations,” CSH wrote.
Expanding housing development can also help ensure that living conditions are safe, free of asbestos, lead paint, or other environmental factors that can impair health.
Housing support can also account for other poverty-driven determinants of health, CSH said.
“Furthermore, supportive housing developments often attract or directly bring critical services to resource-barren neighborhoods,” wrote CSH. “Many supportive housing developments are increasingly featuring on-site or direct linkages to gym facilities, after-school programs, recreational spaces, food pantries, recovery support groups and full-service health clinics that benefit the larger community.”
There are countless different social support and public service gaps that are significant social determinants of health, according to Healthy People 2020, a public health organization developed as a part of the Affordable Care Act.
Issues such as race disparities, lack of social support groups, weak culture of health equity, and limited public services are all drivers of adverse health events.
Populations rely on community partners that will advocate for health equity. Examples of partners include the housing department working with homeless patients or health navigators helping a population’s surplus of single mothers.
Social support also includes efforts toward desegregation, which in turn may ensure certain races are not targeted disproportionately for the social determinants of health. One example is black patients living in poverty-ridden areas at a higher rate than their white patient counterparts.
Support for the public good means ensuring public services meet all patient needs. For instance, neighborhoods that are filled with trash need more support from public sanitation departments.
Public safety is also integral and requires the partnership of safety officers, such as fire departments and police. Police specifically can work to reduce drug issues, crime, and incidents of violence. Public safety officers can also help funnel patients out of negative lifestyles by reducing safety issues.
To learn more, read the full article.