It Takes Two to Tango: The Social Determinants of Health Bring Health and Social Services Together

Historically health and social service providers have been silo-ed in their efforts to provide care for individuals. As far as data goes, they weren’t even listening to the same music much less dancing the same dance. The Affordable Care Act changed the care paradigm. More specifically, a portion of the bill’s provisions aimed to bridge healthcare and community health by providing for an increased focus on prevention and primary care, including:

  • The creation of the National Prevention Council and a National Prevention Strategy
  • Support for testing and spreading of new delivery and payment arrangements
  • A new requirement for not-for-profit hospitals to conduct community health needs assessments

Two-to-TangoProviders from both health and social services quickly realized that it takes two to tango in order to coordinate holistic care for individuals.

With these changes in mind, the critical need for health and social services providers to work together is apparent, especially when considering the social determinants of health as a standard for measuring and achieving community wellness. The idea is that if a community works toward each of these indicators, those municipalities will be better equipped to prevent illness in the first place. However, to create this baseline standard of health, social services providers and healthcare organizations must work together to tackle widespread issues and develop strategies to keep their residents healthy. For example, consider the issue of smoking. Research has shown that lower education levels are directly correlated with lower income in the U.S., along with an increased tendency to smoke cigarettes and, as a result, a lower life expectancy. When community members struggle for access to resources and income, they are more likely to seek medical care for health issues related to smoking and other risky habits. Bringing together health and social data reduces healthcare utilization of super-utilizers, improves patient health, and decreases costs.

Thus, social services organizations whose missions revolve around the social determinants of health can have a direct impact on healthcare organizations in their communities. Moreover, health providers can provide helpful data and information to social services organizations to help them maximize their impact on community health.

Health and human services organizations rely on data to measure and communicate their impact, and insight from healthcare providers can help them optimize their initiatives to better achieve the social determinants of health in their communities. With the right technology, healthcare providers and social services organizations can collaborate more easily and achieve healthier communities.

ClientTrack is a firm believer in the critical importance of case management in changing lives and communities. In our webinar “Bridging the Cultural Gap Between Health and Social Service Providers,” Sheri Chaney Jones, President of Measurement Resources, discussed her work helping three different organizations bridge the culture gap between health and social service data, including a children’s mental health and counseling center, a substance abuse and residential treatment provider, and a patient-centric medical home.

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