Every day it seems there is a new study about healthcare documenting costs or what does or doesn’t work. But a new issue brief from Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured really caught our eye. The brief entitled, “Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity,” documents the shift toward a broader approach in healthcare that “that addresses social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health.” Opportunities fostered with the help of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have enhanced the focus on prevention and community health, and have led to initiatives at the local, state and national level to address the social determinants of health. The brief also notes:
“Community health centers (CHCs) can play a key role in addressing social determinants of health given that they serve at-risk and underserved communities with broad needs. CHCs have a long history of meeting both the clinical and non-clinical needs of the patients they serve and collaborating with community and social support services. Building on this role, the National Association for Community Health Centers, in partnership with the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, the Oregon Primary Care Association, and the Institute for Alternative Futures, recently launched a new program to implement, test, and promote a national standardized patient risk assessment protocol to assess and address patients’ social determinants of health.”
Health centers have addressed the social determinants of health virtually since their inception. But now the philosophy is catching on. For the past 15 years there has also been a “Health in All Policies” approach in healthcare that sensibly looks at impact on population health much in the way that we assess the impact of policies on the environment. Decision-makers across sectors and policy areas can collaboratively assess how actions and decisions in multiple sectors affect health, and engage partners and stakeholders to work together to improve and sustain better health in diverse populations.
We’ll keep you posted on new data and updates as they happen on this blog.