Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Dhruv Khullar, M.D., M.P.P., Massachussetts General Hospital, talks about his relationship with patients who struggle to satisfy their basic needs. While treating these patients, Dr. Khullar realized that cholesterol levels, blood pressure ranges and other medical jargon mean little to those who fight to stay afloat from day to day on the streets.

ACHP’s community-based plans understand the importance of socio-economic factors in improving health. Their programs promote health literacy, education and employment.

Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan has collaborated with the YMCA and Hannaford Supermarkets to create the Healthy Living Center, which offers a variety of free services, including exercise equipment and classes, nutrition counseling, senior health, medication safety and disease management, as well as health insurance support for visitors.

Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools program focuses on supporting healthy eating, active living, school employee wellness and positive school climate among students and teachers in 115 school districts across the plan’s service areas. Short term-outcomes have included increasing ability of school staff and teachers to make health-promoting changes in schools and long-term goals are to increase academic performance of students through improved attendance, discipline, social and emotional health.

To help address the needs of low-income seniors in the Twin Cities Metro area, UCare has partnered with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) to hold an annual Senior Legal Fair. The event is free, multi-cultural and multilingual, and more than 60 private, corporate, legal aid and government lawyers give one-on-one consultations to seniors seeking advice. It also offers seminars on topics such as nursing homes, Social Security retirement, wills and probate and advice on how to increase income and deal with debt.

Improving population health and achieving health equity require broader approaches that encompass social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health.  ACHP plans understand the importance of treating the root cause of health care issues instead of its symptoms.

– Aparna Mazumdar
   Communications Intern