How much of a role do social determinants — genetics, life circumstances,environmental conditions, and behavior — play in overall health?
While these factors aren’t part of disease outcome data, healthcare providers and organizations have realized they may be, in fact, the ultimate contributors to health status. The World Health Organization has made attention to social determinants part of the fundamentals of its work and a priority area in its general program from 2014-2019. And according to the Association of Academic Health Centers (AAHC), medical care alone accounts for less than 25% of a population’s health status, with the balance being determinants like environment or behavior.
The great healthcare population, however, may still be grappling with how to view and measure social determinants of health. To that end, the AAHC has put together an online toolkit, partially funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) (which also funds TEDMED’s Great Challenges Program), to help organizations address the social determinants of health. Created with contributions from the AAHC, RWJF, the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it includes best practices and case studies from academic health centers across the U.S., and a self-assessment questionnaire.
“There’s a growing understanding in the clinical community of the importance of the social determinants of health,” says Mindy McGrath, Director of Government Relations at the AAHC.
One reason may be implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), she says. While the ACA is focused on insurance coverage, “There are many pilot programs, demonstration projects and side goals of the legislation that look at how to organize and pay for care in ways that are more focused on health outcomes. The next step will be: How do we reform our delivery systems to be more geared toward keeping people healthy?”
Toward that end, a number of organizations report using theToolkit to good effect, including Health Leads, which helps connect patients to basic resources. (Read more about healthcare’s growing awareness of social determinants from Rebecca Onie, Health Lead’s Co-Founder and CEO.)
McGrath will join TEDMED in an online discussion, “Where Health Begins,” this Thursday at 2 pm ET to discuss social determinants, the AAHC’s efforts, and related Great Challenges such as the role of poverty in health. Our moderator is Amy Lynn Smith, a healthcare communications writer and strategist.
Join us for the discussion and post questions on Twitter #GreatChallenges; we’ll answer as many as possible on air and Twitter.