Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Health Care’s Blind Side: Unmet Social Needs Leading To Worse Health

From the 8 December 2011 article by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation

In new, national survey, three in four physicians wish the health care system would pay for costs associated with connecting patients to services that address their social needs

In a new, national survey, physicians say unmet social needs — like access to nutritious food, transportation assistance and housing assistance — are leading to worse health for all Americans.

As our nation grapples with increasing poverty, joblessness and homelessness, these findings provide new insights into what it takes for Americans to get and stay healthy.

“America’s physicians understand that our health is largely determined by forces outside of the doctor’s office. Housing, employment, income and education are key factors that shape our health, especially for the most vulnerable among us,” said Jane Lowe, team director for the Vulnerable Populations portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Physicians are sending a clear message: The health care system cannot continue to overlook social needs if we want to improve health in this country.” …


If physicians were able to write prescriptions for social needs, they would frequently prescribe fitness programs, nutritious food and transportation assistance. Physicians whose patients are mostly low-income would write prescriptions for pressing needs such as employment assistance, adult education and housing assistance.

              “Social prescribing refers to the process of linking patients with non-medical sources of support within the community, largely through Primary Care. It includes, for example, arts, learning and exercise on referral, bibliotherapy, self-help materials, volunteering and time banks. As these activities are multi- sectoral, social prescribing therefore has the potential to transcend health and social care, the community and voluntary sectors and private sector boundaries, at a time when changes within the NHS and Local Government attempt to draw these sectors more closely together. “

December 18, 2011 - Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , ,


  1. This is so true. It is easy to write a prescription for an asthma medication, and if you are lucky, insurance will cover it. There is no prescription, however, to eliminate the cockroach antigen or second-hand smoke or polluted air in an individual’s environment that is triggering that asthma in the first place. How true that our zip code as much as our genetics (if not more so) determines our health outcomes.

    Comment by drrubin | December 18, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thank you Dr. Rubin for the comment…
    It lead me to update this post.

    Have added two projects in a topic new to me…social prescribing.
    One program, Health Leads, is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    Another program, stumbled upon while trying to find Health Leads, is a program of the (British) National Health Services (NHS)

    Comment by Janice Flahiff | December 19, 2011 | Reply

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