Want To Improve The Social Determinants Of Health? Here Are 8 Solutions

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Want To Improve The Social Determinants Of Health? Here Are 8 Solutions

December 8, 2019

Want To Improve The Social Determinants Of Health? Here Are 8 Solutions

This wasn’t your typical discussion about social determinants of health. Today at Day 2 of this year’s Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York City, one of the sessions bore the title, “Four Solutions to Improving the Social Determinants of Health, Right Here, Right Now.”

Yes, that’s the word “solutions” in the title. Not “problems” or “99 problems” or “yeah, such is life.” Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play” that “affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s been established over and over again that your environmental, social, job, and economic situations can greatly affect your health. In the words of Spandau Ballet, this much is true.

So, rather than waste any more words, let’s get to the solutions that the panel discussed:

Best Practices

  • Improve people’s diets and access to healthy food - Since diet can affect so many aspects of health, it’s not surprising that one of the solutions that emerged involved food. Another panelist, Jean C. Accius, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of AARP, emphasized that reducing food insecurity can have a “ripple effect,” because locations with food insecurity also have higher levels of diabetes and other chronic diseases.
  • Improve the physical environment such as increasing housing options, transportation options, and parks - Many of AARP efforts have focused on creating more “age-friendly communities.” We need to “think about how to create more livable communities.” That includes ensuring “greater housing options and greater transportation options.” 
  • Improve access to the Internet - These days, there’s much talk about the possibility of developing mobile and Internet-based approaches to improve the health of communities. Ah, but there’s one problem with that. Many people still don’t have reliable access to the Internet or have experience navigating the Internet.
  • Better understand the needs of individuals and bring care to them - All of the panelists agreed that healthcare needs to better understand the needs of patients. Not patients as one big glutinous mass, but as a range of different individuals. 
  • Integrate health care with retail - One panelist offered the possibility of “healthcare getting together with retail. Integrating retail more with the healthcare system.”
  • Develop and use technology to bridge the gaps in social determinants - Find ways to develop and use technology to overcome current gaps and disparities in SDOH. The other panelists talked about how technology can help better understand what consumers need and want.
  • Re-structure financial incentives to motivate addressing social determinants - The panel briefly discussed a seventh key solution: re-structuring financial incentives to further motivate the aforementioned solutions, a solution to help other solutions so to speak. “it is hard to get someone to do something when their salary depends on them not doing it.”
  • Changing the focus of healthcare in general - The emphasis of healthcare has to turn a completely new direction. There is an “urgent need for healthcare to better address social determinants, which is 80% of health. Too long has social determinants been relegated to the end of a meeting or conference."

The full Forbes article can be viewed at this link.