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      Using Social Determinants of Health Data to Forge an Equitable Future

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      Ongoing COVID-19 challenges and its emerging aftermath have left people struggling—financially, personally and socially. Especially those most vulnerable. Given how closely financial health is linked to overall wellness,1 it’s important to recognize that keeping individuals and communities healthy involves much more than taking temperatures and prescribing medication. Data can help.

      Here’s a snapshot view of how SDOH data can enable positive change and help us all forge an equitable future for the healthcare industry.

      Social isolation and mental health
      A KFF Tracking Poll found 45% of U.S. adults reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress about COVID-19.2 Having information such as household occupancy, age, and changes in employment status and income, can help your organization design and deliver targeted interventions and support services. For example, you may find that large segments of your patient population lack access to a vehicle and/or public transportation. From this data, you can determine that adding additional telehealth options would best serve your patients. Similarly, you may identify a need to establish or modify community programming to strengthen social support. These efforts may improve community health outcomes and help address behavioral and overall health needs.3

      Food insecurity
      In 2019, the overall food insecurity rate was the lowest it had been in more than twenty years. Yet, one in nine individuals and one in seven children lived in a food-insecure household. 4 Increased unemployment, school and business closures, and labor shortages within the food industry contributed to increased food insecurity within our communities. Socioeconomic data can help identify those most at risk and inform meal distribution, delivery and pickup locations.

      Preventative measures to lessen viral spread
      Identifying viral hotspots through accurate data and modeling can help inform strategies to mitigate further spread. Specific to the pandemic, we’ve learned that where an individual lives in a community (their demographic information) can influence their probability of contracting the virus.5, 6 Housing and income inequalities, as well as access to care and paid leave, can be related to the spread of respiratory illness.7 Using this data to develop prevention plans can potentially help reduce a community’s risk of viral resurgence.

      SDOH factors have prevented marginalized groups from having fair and just opportunities to be as healthy as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the need to address these entrenched inequities in order to improve health for all. In order to forge a better future, healthcare organizations — hospitals and payers — need to understand how socioeconomic attributes manifest themselves among the individuals and communities they serve.

      With SDOH data, better medical care can be rendered, more health risk factors can be identified and more positive health outcomes can be realized.

      To learn more about using SDOH data to create a positive impact on your organization and the populations you serve, listen to our recent podcast, Addressing Health Equity & Social Determinants of Health.

      1 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0233359

      2 https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

      3 https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2015/01/28/14/58/support-for-social-determinants-of-behavioral-health

      4 https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2021-03/National%20Projections%20Brief_3.9.2021_0.pdf

      5 https://www.prb.org/how-demographic-changes-make-us-more-vulnerable-to-pandemics-like-the-coronavirus/

      6 https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/managing-epidemics-interactive.pdf

      7 https://www.healthify.us/healthify-insights/sdoh-impact-of-covid-19


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