The medical community could improve the well-being of millions of older Americans by addressing how three social determinants of health – food insecurity, loneliness, and social isolation – are prohibiting them from achieving their best health, according to Dr. Roy Beveridge, Humana’s Chief Medical Officer.
Dr. Beveridge wrote a blog post for Forbes titled “Are Social Determinants The Missing Key To Improving Health?” He noted that such social determinants of health may be as important as our physical determinants and genetic makeup. And he cited research showing that “consumer behavior (social connectedness), socioeconomic (family and social support) and environmental factors account for 60 percent of what determines a person’s health.”
“Social determinants are creating a more complex health picture for the people they impact, and we need to address them and find solutions,” he wrote. “To do so, it’s important to understand how social determinants differ from clinical diseases and how they impact specific individuals.
“If you’re food insecure, you won’t be healthy. If you’re lonely, you don’t take care of yourself. If you’re isolated, you’re going to eventually become depressed. Social determinants can lower a person’s resolve to make important lifestyle changes, directly impacting his or her health.”
He said the medical community “needs the time, tools and reimbursement to proactively screen for social determinants of health, and this requires evolved payment models that codify and compensate physicians for these screenings. Creative solutions must be developed to seamlessly and effortlessly connect physicians with community resources as part of the patient’s care plan. Feedback mechanisms are critical so physicians know their patients are using these resources.”
He also noted that, “We have a responsibility to expand our understanding of how risk factors like food insecurity, loneliness, and social isolation affect chronic conditions and then work to evolve the ways in which we address them. … As we think of clinical contributors to health, social determinants of health must become equally as important.”