An Evolving Roadmap to Address Social Determinants of Health
[Editor’s Note: this perspective originally appeared in To the Point, a publication of The Commonwealth Fund.]
Today, health care providers and system leaders understand that the health of our patients is driven in large part by the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work, and age — what we call the social determinants of health. A growing body of research shows that integrating social services into health care delivery can improve health and reduce spending.
But so much remains unknown. How do we determine what social services patients might need? How can we leverage care teams to improve patients’ social circumstances? How can we address the social determinants of health without adding to an administrative and measurement burden that is already unacceptably high for health providers?
To help us learn from what has already been done and to guide us toward answers for these critical questions, a group of health system leaders from across the country came together in 2015 to examine how health care organizations address social determinants of health as a standard part of quality care. This workgroup developed a framework to guide and support fellow health care and community leaders working to establish or expand effective social determinants of health initiatives.
That framework, called the Essential Needs Roadmap, serves as a gateway to a curated library of tools, best practices, implementation guidance, and other dynamic content. Both the roadmap and a broader Resource Library are organized into six “drivers” that are key to successful social needs strategies in clinical settings…