Health Affairs Blog Post: Meeting Patients’ Individual Social Needs Falls Short of Improving the Health of All

In Health Affairs, de Beaumont Foundation CEO Brian Castrucci and John Auerbach, CEO of Trust for America’s Health, weigh in on the growing involvement of health providers in addressing patients’ social needs — saying these interventions are a good step, but not enough. Read “Meeting Individual Social Needs Falls Short of Addressing Social Determinants.”

Castrucci and Auerbach (who’s also a de Beaumont board member) applaud the fact that hospitals and healthcare systems are paying attention to the causes of illness and taking steps to intervene — for example, by buying food, offering temporary housing, or covering transportation costs for high-risk patients. The challenge, though, is that these actions meet the needs only of some patients, and only after they’ve become sick. And more important, they don’t change the social and economic factors that led to their health needs. “While healthcare leaders have come to realize that these programs are less expensive than providing repeat healthcare services for their highest cost patients, such patient-centered assistance does not improve the underlying social and economic factors affecting the health of everyone in a community. These granular social interventions are necessary to help individual patients, but we must also remain focused on the broader, community-level social determinants of health if we are to improve our nation’s collective health.”

The answer, they say, lies in community-level policy change to address hunger, unsafe housing, economic inequities, and other conditions that affect the health of all residents. Working together, healthcare providers, public health professionals, policymakers, and advocates can enact far-reaching social change and actually make our communities and our nation healthier. Read the blog post.

Click link to download the infographic “Social Determinants and Social Needs: Moving Beyond Midstream.”