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 | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A prescription to address healthcare’s blind side

A prescription to address healthcare’s blind side

An excerpt from the KevinMD.com blog item by 

f you have read Michael Lewis’ book, The Blind Side, or seen the popular movie based on it, you know that the title refers to the fact that quarterbacks, who are typically right-handed, can’t see when a 300-pound opponent is charging at them from the left side. Not being able to see the full picture puts the quarterback directly in harm’s way and makes it harder for his team to succeed.

There’s a blind side to health care too, and it’s keeping us from doing what matters most to improve people’s health and deal with our long term medical costs.

A recent poll of physicians revealed that 4 out of 5 believe that unmet social needs — things like nutritious food, transportation, adequate housing and employment assistance — are leading to worse health outcomes for their patients. And those physicians do not feel confident in their capacity to do much about them.

We know that our zip code can be even more powerful than our genetic code when it comes to people’s health.  Indeed, the conditions people live in day in, day out—and where and how they live, learn, work and play—have a greater impact on their health than the medical  care they receive to repair the damage to their health.

We can, and simply must, do more to keep people as healthy as possible in the first place.  And that means taking a serious look at those factors in our neighborhoods, workplaces and schools that shape our health from the earliest years of life….

 

…An organization called Health Leads has bridged this gap for physicians and patients in the six cities in which they currently operate. It empowers doctors to help remove the social barriers that keep people from taking the actions they need to be healthy. Doctors at facilities where Health Leads exists literally write prescriptions that help struggling families access basic resources like heat for their homes, subsidized child care or food for their kitchen tables.

 From the Health Leads Web Pages

Health Leads mobilizes undergraduate volunteers, in partnership with providers in urban clinics, to connect low-income patients with the basic resources — such as food, housing, and heating assistance — that they need to be healthy.

  • 6 cities
  • 21 sites
  • 1,000 volunteers
  • 9,000 patients

With Health Leads, a doctor can “prescribe” food, housing, health insurance, job training, fuel assistance, or other critical resources – just as they would medication. Patients take their prescriptions to the clinic waiting room, where Health Leads’ college volunteers are ready to connect them to these resources.

Health Leads’ straightforward, preventative referrals to government and community resources enable families to avert crises and to access increased income and education, which have been documented to result in better long-term health outcomes.

Health Leads‘ 21 desks are located in pediatric outpatient, adolescent, and prenatal clinics, newborn nurseries, pediatric emergency rooms, health department clinics, and federally qualified health centers.

Last year, Health Leads trained and deployed nearly 1,000 college volunteers to connect nearly 9,000 low-income patients and their families to the resources they need to be healthy.

By providing a transformative experience for hundreds of college volunteers, Health Leads is producing a pipeline of new leaders who will have both the conviction and the ability to revolutionize health care.

Health Leads volunteers are not social workers, but work in conjunction with trained and licensed social workers, nurses, physicians, legal aid workers and other clinical staff to ensure that patients can get and stay healthy.

December 11, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

   

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