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Navigating a Pandemic: Utilize Social Determinants of Health Data to Drive Industry Change

The impact of COVID-19 on populations across the United States has varied greatly depending on a myriad of socioeconomic factors. Ongoing challenges and the emerging aftermath has left many people reeling — financially, personally and socially. The majority (58%) of US consumers who responded to a TransUnion survey conducted during the week of May 25, reported taking a financial hit due to the crisis. Given how closely financial health is linked to overall wellness,1 it’s important to recognize that keeping individuals and communities healthy, especially in these uncertain times, involves much more than simply taking temperatures and/or administering COVID-19 tests — and data can help.

Digging deeper into the factors that comprise social determinants of health (SDOH) can help healthcare organizations deliver better medical care, identify health risk factors and influence more positive health outcomes. Quality SDOH data enables healthcare organizations — hospitals and payers — to view both individuals and their communities with increased granularity.

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the heightened significance of socioeconomic information is highlighted in the following examples:

Social isolation and mental health

Each of us undoubtedly knows someone who has experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness during the stay at home directives, even as some restrictions lift and social distancing requirements remain in place. A recent KFF Tracking Poll found 45% of US adults reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress about COVID-19.2 Having information such as household occupancy, age, and changes in employment status and income, can help your organization design and deliver targeted interventions and support services for a variety of different medical conditions. For example, you may identify that large segments of your patient population lack access to a vehicle and/or public transportation and determine that adding additional telehealth options to deliver healthcare in specific communities would best serve your patients. Similarly, you may identify a need to establish or modify community programming to strengthen social support. These efforts may improve community health outcomes, and help address behavioral and overall health needs.3

Food insecurity

Increased unemployment, school and business closures, and labor shortages within the food industry, are each contributing to increased food insecurity within our communities. According to Feeding America, the number of individuals facing food insecurity could grow by 17.1 million due to COVID-19.Certain economic factors may influence a population’s food insecurity, such as unemployment and poverty and disability.5 School-aged children who depend on daily, nutritious food through their school breakfast and lunch programs have been particularly affected by COVID-19. And with school and summer programming closures, it remains an issue.Socioeconomic data can help identify those most at risk and inform meal distribution, delivery and pickup locations.

Preventative measures to lessen spread of the virus

Identifying viral hotspots through accurate data and modeling can help inform strategies to mitigate further spread. Where an individual lives in a community (their demographic information) can influence their probability of contracting the virus.7, 8 Housing and income inequalities, as well as access to care and paid leave, can be related to the spread of respiratory illness.9 Using this data to develop prevention plans can potentially help reduce a community’s risk of resurgence of the virus. These prevention plans could include more targeted community education around preventative measures or increasing access to testing and treatment.

To learn more about using SDOH data to create a positive impact on your organization and the populations you serve, register for our upcoming webinar, Transforming Healthcare in Your Community: Putting Social Determinants of Health Data to Work.

Sources:
1https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0233359
2https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/
3https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2015/01/28/14/58/support-for-social-determinants-of-behavioral-health
4https://www.feedingamerica.org/research/coronavirus-hunger-research
5https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-health/interventions-resources/food-insecurity
6https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2005638
7https://www.prb.org/how-demographic-changes-make-us-more-vulnerable-to-pandemics-like-the-coronavirus/
8https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/managing-epidemics-interactive.pdf
9https://www.healthify.us/healthify-insights/sdoh-impact-of-covid-19

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