Social Health

Social health refers to the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, work, worship, play, and age. Improving social health is vital to improving overall health.

Social Health

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:

Featured work in social health

Featured publications

Brown MC, Paolino AR, Dorsey CN, Kelly C, Lewis CC. Kaiser Permanente’s Social Needs Network for Evaluation and Translation Empirical Research Agenda. AJPM Focus. Vol 2, Issue 3. Sept 2023. doi: Full text

Mahmud A, Cushing-Haugen K, Wellman R, Brown MC, Lewis CC. Understanding the Relationship Between Social Risk Factors and COVID-19 Contacts. Perm J. 15;27(2):18-22. June 2023. doi: 10.7812/TPP/22.146. Epub 2023 Apr 18. Full text

Lewis CC, Jones SMW, Wellman R, Sharp AL, Gottlieb LM, Banegas MP, De Marchis E, Steiner JF. Social Risks and Social Needs in a Health Insurance Exchange Sample: A Longitudinal Evaluation of Utilization. BMC Health Serv Rex​​​​​s. 28;22(1):1430. Nov 2022. doi: 10.1186/s12913-022-08740-6. Full text

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: 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. PubMed

Featured resource

A playbook for building an embedded social health support role into primary care

Featured news

Graphics and photos illustrating how health systems can help patients with social health
Sophia Mun and Ariel Singer share success stories from an ACT Center pilot project
Larnette Slade
Larnette Slade talks about her role as a community resource specialist