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Tackling Social Determinants of Health

The growing awareness of the impact of social determinants of health comes at a time when health care providers are assuming unprecedented degrees of risk for the health of their patients, leaving many providers wondering how best to invest resources that will meet both their own needs as well as the needs of their high-cost, high-need patients.

A new document from the Commonwealth Fund, “Investing in social services as a core strategy for healthcare organizations:  Developing the business case,” seeks to serve as a manual for providers seeking to move into this relatively new territory.

The report takes providers through key steps in the process, including establishing a common definition of social service investment; identifying common barriers to social service investments; and building the business case for such investments.  It also addresses six aspects of building that business case:

  • identifying potential social investment options
  • defining success
  • measuring costs
  • determining an investment model
  • developing a return on investment approach
  • sensitivity analysis and investment launch

Finally, it identifies the major social determinants of health providers might seek to address:

  • economic stability
  • neighborhood and physical environment
  • education
  • food
  • community and social context

For a closer look at the considerations that go into the development of a cohesive attempt to address social determinants of health and several case studies, go here to see the Commonwealth Fund’s new manual “Investing in social services as a core strategy for healthcare organizations:  Developing the business case.”

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2012 Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania