Addressing the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), and their corresponding patient-level social needs, have increasingly become a national priority for health care providers, systems, and payers. The Accountable Healthcare Communities, funded through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, provided a national model that adopted mechanisms to address, monitor, and measure progress in mitigating SDOH with the goal of improving health outcomes. The hope for approaches like these lies in the potential to improve health and its upstream determinants, while reducing downstream health care utilization and associated costs. Much of the enthusiasm lies in the potential to address injustice, particularly structural racism, which is a primary driver of health inequity.
The 2022 AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting has a number of exciting and timely panels as part of the Social Determinants of Health and Social Needs theme that cover important areas, such as:
- DATA. There are currently no standard surveys to screen for SDOH measures across EMRs (and there is variation within given EMR platforms), access to social service data has administrative and ethical challenges, and making data user-friendly to frontline providers (e.g. via dashboards) can be a challenge and is not yet standard practice. We have two featured SDOH panels, both of which address issues of data: “Enhancing Accessibility of Federal and Community Level Social Determinants of Health Data” chaired by Dr. Rachael Zuckerman of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation on Saturday, June 4, and “Making Data Actionable: Dashboards to Address Social Determinants of Health in Care” chaired by Dr. Arlene Bierman of AHRQ on Sunday, June 5.
- HOUSING. Housing may be the most significant health-related social need in terms of prevalence, complexity to address, and the potential for impact on short- and long-term health. The panel “Housing Insecurity and Health: What Can Policy and Healthcare Systems Do?” explores how housing insecurity, from being chronically unhoused to struggling to stay in affordable housing, can impact health, and will discuss strategies (e.g. paramedics in homeless shelters) and policies (e.g. low income tax credits) being used to support people with housing insecurity. This panel is taking place on Sunday, June 5 at 12:30pm.
- GEOSPATIAL CONTRIBUTORS. Where you live may be as important as how you live in terms of the influence on health and well-being. One of the most significant legacy effects of structural racism is racialized residential segregation, which has led to geospatial disparities in neighborhoods across the U.S. The panel “Geospatial Contributors to Poor Health and Health Equity” on June 5 explores how geographic variation, including rural vs. urban, contributes to poor health and health inequity for a range of medical conditions and patient populations.
- COVID-19. The pandemic laid bare the existing structural inequities that underlie SDOH and exacerbated racial health disparities. Taking place on June 4 at 2:30 pm “COVID-19, Social Risks and Health” will discuss how different social needs (e.g. food insecurity, income loss, insurance status, housing) were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and how institutions such health care and employer-sponsored insurance were able to absorb the shock.
- OUTCOMES. Perhaps the most sought-after aspects of SDOH research are outcomes studies. What is the burden of evidence that SDOH interventions can improve process measures and health outcomes, reduce health care utilization, and/or impact health care costs? There are two panels that focus on outcomes on Monday, June 6. “The Impact of Social Determinants of Health and Medicaid Populations” addresses various topics such as whether Medicaid expansion improved financial security, and interventions’ ability to provide connections to care and successfully address food and housing insecurity. Another panel “Health Related Social Needs and Health Outcomes” focuses on Medicare enrollees, including a study of the epidemiology of health-related social needs and a study of health-related social needs and acute care utilization among Medicare Advantage enrollees, and the general population more broadly, exploring longitudinal relationships between health-related social needs and health care utilization, screening for mental needs and service use, and potential associations between unmet social needs and diabetes treatment adherence.
There’s still time to register for the Annual Research Meeting taking place in Washington, D.C. June 4-7 to access these sessions. View the full agenda to see more panels related to SDOH, health equity and disparities, using health data, and more. See our blog providing an overview of sessions related to payment and delivery system innovations here.