Social Determinants of Health or SDOH has become a buzzword in the healthcare industry, and for very valid and impactful reasons. The basic components of SDOH include: economic stability, access to education, access to quality healthcare, neighborhood and environment, and social context. At its core, SDOH recognizes the fundamental truth that we are all the sum of our life experiences, including access to critical resources and benefits of our community, and these contribute to our overall health. “For example, people who don’t have access to grocery stores with healthy foods are less likely to have good nutrition. That raises their risk of health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity — and even lowers life expectancy relative to people who do have access to healthy foods.” HealthIT.Gov
These non-clinical factors, have real medical impact either positively or negatively on patients. This isn’t restricted to the United States, in fact, much of the research around SDOH in the last two decades has been done at a global level. The numbers are shocking, for instance, today “there is a difference of 18 years of life expectancy between high- and low- income countries” WHO.
In the Central African Republic, the current life expectancy is 53, in the US its 72, in Japan it’s 84. The differences in life expectancy can all be tied back to SDOH. This translates across medical health as well as mental health.
44 million adult Americans have one or more mental illness, 24.6 million have not received any treatment and 20% of those report they have tried and failed to obtain treatment – MHA National. The numbers for children are much higher. When individuals, of any age, are unable to obtain treatment their conditions exacerbate leading to additional diagnoses, suicidality, and even death.
The CDC outlines ten essential public health services for SDOH improvement:
- Assess and monitor population health status, factors that influence health, and community needs and assets
- Investigate, diagnose, and address health problems and hazards affecting the population
- Communicate effectively to inform and educate people about health, factors that influence it, and how to improve it
- Strengthen, support, and mobilize communities and partnerships to improve health
- Create, champion, and implement policies, plans, and laws that impact health
- Utilize legal and regulatory actions designed to improve and protect the public’s health
- Assure an effective system that enables equitable access to the individual services and care needed to be healthy
- Build and support a diverse and skilled public health workforce
- Improve and innovate public health functions through ongoing evaluation, research, and continuous quality improvement
- Build and maintain a strong organizational infrastructure for public health
So how do you begin in your facility? First you need to understand your community and the needs therein. Review the data at your disposal. Once you have that build outreach methods into the community that support patient engagement in health literate ways. For specific use cases and ways H4T can support your SDOH efforts, drop us a line. We are passionate about public health and opportunities to improve all of our communities.