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Social Determinants Updates

July 24 to August 7, 2020

Welcome to Aligning for Health's Social Determinants Updates newsletter.

In this newsletter you will find updates on how the health care system is helping to meet health and social needs during the current public health emergency, as well as other notable links to research, data, and news related to social determinants, and upcoming virtual events and opportunities.

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Member News

Health Payer Intelligence: (8/4) – Wellcare, a subsidiary of Centene, announced a new partnership lasting through December 2020 that aims to bolster Medicare Advantage beneficiaries’ food security.

Healthcare IT News: (8/3) – Alliance for Better Health CEO Jacob Reider is quoted in this article about the need for a consistent, predictable, repeatable mechanism for expressing that someone has social needs as more vendors and health information exchanges seek to bridge the clinical-social gap.

Saporta Report: (8/3) – The CareSource Foundation and the Metro Atlanta Chamber announced the recipients of the $180,000 RESTORE ATL Fund, which will support black-owned small and medium-sized businesses.

Open Minds: (7/31) – Unite Us has partnered with CVS Health to make their social care coordination platform available to Aetna’s vulnerable Medicaid and dual eligible members, allowing them to more easily access social services within their community.

American Hospital Association: (July 2020) – American Hospital Association published an issue brief on 5 actions to promote housing access during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social Determinants Accelerator Act

The Forum for Youth Investment: (7/10) – The Forum published an issue brief describing lessons learned from the Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3), and highlighting ways that the Social Determinants Accelerator Act builds on P3 to address social needs and support good governance.

House Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriation Bill Passes, Includes Part of Social Determinants Accelerator Act

Last week, the House passed the FY 2021 Labor-HHS Appropriations Act, which included language incorporating the Social Determinants Accelerator Act. The report language provides $10 million for the CDC to award grants to states to develop Social Determinants Accelerator Plans and establishes a federal council to help improve cross-agency opportunities to address social determinants

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SDoH in the News

NAMI: (8/6) – As more emphasis is placed on addressing the social determinants of health, this article outlines ways to address the social determinants of mental health by bringing healthy food options, community centers, and neighborhood cohesiveness to underserved communities.

Becker’s Hospital Review: (8/5) – Relying on a strong population health framework that emphasizes value-based care, and actively identifies gaps in care can help strengthen health systems and vulnerable populations for integrated health systems like Presbyterian Healthcare Services.

USA Today: (8/5) – COVID-19 has left millions of Americans without enough food, with charities and food banks across the country struggling to meet demand rural America being extremely affected. The Senate can take action to help, such as providing a temporary 15% increase in SNAP benefits, as the country is on the brink of an economic and food security disaster.

Health Affairs: (8/4)– The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the country’s housing affordability crisis. As more families face the prospect of eviction, it is critical to consider the impacts of eviction on health and health equity, and the policy levers available to address it.

Health Affairs: (8/4) – There have been more than 3.5 million social needs requests during COVID-19 from 2-1-1 helplines across the U.S. This article synthesizes the data from these calls and highlights four broad observations, their implications, and lessons learned.

VICE: (8/4) – COVID-19 has provided even more evidence of how socially determined health is, exposing how deep social inequalities are and how factors like income, education, housing, race and social status can impact health outcomes.

Health Leaders Media: (8/4) – RWJ Barnabas Chief Transformation Officer Paul Alexander, MD, MPH, views social determinants as a catalyst for change, and argues that the pandemic accelerates opportunities to address social needs.

Fierce Healthcare: (8/4) – Structural racism and social determinants have played a role in healthcare experience and outcomes, but there are concrete steps we can begin to take to begin to address the social determinants of health.

Patient Engagement HIT: (8/3) – While health equity is not a new concept, the health industry is seeing renewed energy around using community health partnerships to alleviate care barriers and improve health disparities.

Avalere: (8/3) – Experts from Avalere’s Center for Healthcare Transformation break down the concept of social determinants of health and its impact on health in this new podcast series.

Fortune: (7/31) – Healthcare occurs both inside and outside of health systems, with this article highlighting four ways that health systems can start to address health disparities.

AZBigMedia: (7/31) – UnitedHealthcare awarded more than $100,000 to three community-based organizations in Arizona to expand access to care and address social needs for uninsured individuals and underserved communities.

CFO Dive: (7/30) – COVID-19 is accelerating a focus on telehealth and preventive care, including focuses on food benefits and mental health, which could impact the health benefits employers provide.

Healthcare Finance News: (7/29) – A large racial divide exists in being able to pay for COVID-19 treatment, with a recent survey finding that people of color are far more likely to worry about their ability to pay for healthcare if diagnosed with COVID than their white counterparts.

Patient Engagement HIT: (7/28) – The CDC has announced a health equity plan for its COVID-19 response, which emphasizes a greater focus on community health, cultural competence, and access to COVID-19 testing and treatment as part of its efforts to promote health equity.

NASHP: (7/28) – NASHP published an interactive map highlighting detailing which states are reporting case, mortality and testing data by race and ethnicity on a state, zip code, or community level, and what initiatives they are taking to address race and health inequities.

Health Affairs: (7/27) – This blog discusses lessons from rural Northern New England and despite the challenges of rural health systems having limited capacity, significant poverty and social vulnerability, there is a rural ethos of compassion and solidarity that helped mount an effective response to COVID-19.

Foster’s: (7/27) – A report published by the New Hampshire COVID-19 Equity Response Team found that social determinants of health affecting communities of color had already laid the groundwork for a devastating and disproportionate impact by the coronavirus, adding recommendations to address COVID-19 within communities of color across the state.

Health Affairs: (7/27) – The Blue Shield Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation compared California’s and Texas’s Medicaid health plans’ investment in social determinants strategies, facilitating factors and challenges for plans, technical assistance needs and policy recommendations.

AMA: (7/28) – As the healthcare system increasingly sees the importance of addressing health inequities, there are several steps that Congress can take to address health disparities.

Modern Healthcare: (7/25) – Charlotte providers have focused their COVID-19 response to underserved communities by partnering with community organizations and addressing health disparities.

The Hill: (7/24) – In this interview, Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) discusses COVID-19 and how racial and ethnic health disparities have been impacted more and had worse health outcomes due to factors like the social determinants of health.

Health Affairs: (7/20) – This article presents a framework for understanding health disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides short- and long-term solutions to reduce these disparities.

Commonwealth Fund Analysis of Social Determinants Provisions in Medicaid Managed Care Contracts

New Research and Reports

Radiology: (8/5) – A retrospective cohort study reviewed chest X-rays and found that people of color hospitalized with COVID-19 were more likely to show increased disease severity and a higher risk of adverse outcomes, such as admissions to intensive care units and intubation.

Journal of Clinical Pathways: (8/3) – This study focuses on the cost-effectiveness of integrating social determinants of health to improve cancer screening, finding that interventions focused on social determinants appeared to be cost-effective for underserved, vulnerable populations in the U.S.

Health Policy Sense: (8/3) – This study examined the $12 billion in “high impact” COVID-19 relief funds received by 395 hospitals that cared for 100 or more COVID-19 patients were distributed relating to social determinants. Their analysis found communities receiving these funds carried with respect to several measures of social determinants of health.

JAMA Network: (7/31) – Food has emerged as a critical social determinant of health among older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the authors of this article to call for strengthening the SNAP program, expanding the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program, adding funding support to food banks and other emergency food assistance programs, and expanding screening for food insecurity in health systems.

NEJM: (7/22) – In this perspective piece, the authors note that the pandemic has demonstrated how our public health response cannot be divorced from public policy, and that now is the time to think big and implement policies that address health equity.

Patient Engagement HIT: (7/21) – New data published in Stroke found that experiencing multiple, cofounding social determinants, including educational attainment, income, and race, can increase one’s likelihood of having a stroke.

 Data Collection and Innovation

Healthcare IT News: (8/6) – Reading Hospital in Pennsylvania extracted data using combined technology from Healthify and Epic EHR and generated 9,000 community referrals for positively screened patients and 6,000 referrals to community service agencies for high-risk screened patients.

EHR Intelligence: (8/4) – The Idaho Health Data Exchange (IHDE) announced it is implementing a search and referral platform for its users to better understand social determinants o health and enhance the exchange of that data.

Health IT Analytics: (8/3) – The University of Southern California Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics has launched a population health project, called the American Life in Real-Time Project, which aims to collect data across all sociodemographic groups using digital health technologies to improve population health and reduce health disparities.

NHPSI: (7/25) – The National Health Security Preparedness Index, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, combines measures from multiple sources and perspectives to offer a broad view of the health protections in place for the nation and for U.S. and identify strengths and gaps in protections needed to keep people safe and health and track how these protections change over time.

Legislative Roundup

Improving Social Determinants of Health Act(8/6) – Senators Smith (D-MN) and Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Senate version of the Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 2020 (S. 4440), which would authorize the CDC to begin work on improving health outcomes and reduce inequities by investing in the efforts of the federal government and of public health agencies and community organizations to address the adverse impact of social determinants. This bill was previously introduced in the House by Rep. Barragan (D-CA) (H.R. 6561).

REACH Act: (8/4) – Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the REACH Act (S. 4410) which codifies the CDC’s REACH program that supports locally tailored and collaborative projects aimed at combating health disparities with a particular emphasis on chronic disease prevention and response.

Mental Health Equity Act: (7/30) – Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Booker (D-NJ), and Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the Mental Health Equity Act of 2020 (S. 1737) to address the issues of suicide and mental health in youth with a focus on those in socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

Senator Collins: (7/21) – Senate Aging Committee Chair Senators Collins (R-MN) and Ranking Member Casey (D-PA)  held a hearing to examine ways to address COVID-19’s disparate impacts on older adults in racial and ethnic minority communities.

Upcoming Events





SDoH Opportunities



  • Deadline: September 2 – Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Call for Proposals: Research to Advance Models of Care for Medicaid-Eligible Populations


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