By CATALYST @ HEALTH 2.0
Nearly a decade has passed since Healthy People 2020 positioned social determinants of health (SDoH) at the forefront of healthcare reform. As defined by the report, SDoH are the “conditions in the environment in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age, that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality of life outcomes.” Examples of social determinants include:
- Resources to meet daily needs (e.g., safe housing and local food markets)
- Educational, economic, and job opportunities
- Community-based resources in support of community living and opportunities for recreational and leisure-time activities
The ability to influence social determinants largely falls outside of the health care system’s reach. Therefore, a key to address opportunities for health involves collaboration between health care and different industries such as education, housing, and transportation. Both the public and private sectors have made significant efforts to bridge the gap between physical, mental, and social care by experimenting with non-traditional partnerships.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has spearheaded multiple programs with government agencies and community partners to achieve the goals outlined in Healthy People 2020. One of the most notable successes is the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, an initiative by the CDC with the Department of Housing & Urban Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Through housing rehabilitation, enforcement of housing and health codes, and partnerships with healthcare experts, the program helped Healthy People 2020 exceed their target of reducing blood lead level in children.
Other programs such as the “National Program to Eliminate Diabetes Related Disparities in Vulnerable Populations,” leveraged community partners and resources to increase food security, health literacy, and physical spaces for active living. In one of their projects, the program partnered with community health workers (promotoras) who spoke Spanish to engage with Hispanic/Latino communities where participation to Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) was low. The community health workers provided linguistically and culturally-sensitive materials that effectively increased participation in DSME among the targeted population. The outcomes from such initiatives have inspired more health and community organizations to work together to reduce health disparities.