Why focus on social health?
Improving social health is vital to improving overall health. Social health refers to how well a person’s basic needs are met and includes things like food, shelter, and interpersonal relationships. Social, mental, and physical health work together to create total health. The conditions in the environments where people are born, live, work, worship, play, and age can have direct or indirect impact on people's health and well-being and contribute to health disparities and inequities. Key examples include financial stability, access to quality education, health care, housing and transportation, exposure to racism and discrimination, exposure to air and water pollution, access to nutritious foods, and opportunities for physical activity
Health care systems have a vital role to play
Given the essential role social health plays in overall health, efforts to transform care need to improve the ways we identify and talk with our patients about social health. We need direct action and cross-sector collaboration to screen, identify, and address social needs in the clinical care setting. Our work increasingly focuses on projects designed to understand people's social health needs — and to learn how health systems can help meet those needs by providing social health services and linking patients to community resources. Here are some examples:
- The ACT Center serves as the coordinating center for Kaiser Permanente's Social Needs Network for Evaluation and Translation (SONNET) — a learning network of researchers and evaluators who work to improve the health of KP members by using scientific capabilities to inform social health policy and practice.
- At KP Washington, we helped implement a new community resource specialist (CRS) role in primary care and evaluated its impact on patient and care team outcomes. In a related project that leverages the CRS role, we are working with patients and care teams to co-design an approach to universal social health screening.
- The ACT Center also collaborates with state and local organizations to advance social health initiatives in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and other health systems.
Featured work in social health
SONNET Coordinating Center
Social health integration
Community resource specialist
Social health partnerships
Tuzzio L, Wellman RD, De Marchis EH, Gottlieb LM, Walsh-Bailey C, Jones SM, Nau CL, Steiner JF, Banegas MP, Sharp AL, Derus A, Lewis CC. Social Risk Factors and Desire for Assistance Among Patients Receiving Subsidized Health Care Insurance in a US-Based Integrated Delivery System. Ann Fam Med. 20 (2) 137-144. March 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1370/afm.2774. Full text
Henrikson NB, Blasi P, Dorsey CN, Mettert KD, Nguyen MB, Walsh-Bailey CL, Macuiba JA, Gottlieb LM, Lewis CC. Psychometric and pragmatic properties of social risk assessment tools in clinical settings: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med. Vol 57, Issue 6, Supp 1, p S13-S24. Dec 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2019.07.012. PubMed