Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are Now Better Understood as Key Drivers of Health

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Source: Healthy People 2020                                                                                                                                                                                   (with MLPB annotations in yellow boxes)

 
Many healthcare and human services (HHS) teams don't realize the critical role they can play in detecting, triaging, and addressing consumers' health-related social needs. In fact, clinicians in particular often are unaware that patients can't access many health-promoting benefits and services without customized medical certifications or "doctor's letters." Thousands of times day, providers and staff are functioning as powerful "gate-keepers" to scores of valuable supports that are critical to a person's health and well-being.
 
For example:
  • an adult's application for disability benefits and FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) protections requires a medical certification
  • a child's application for disability benefits or for special education services from the school system also requires medical evidence and opinions.

For the most part, the HHS workforce that serves individuals and families across the age and health continuum must navigate this gatekeeper role day-to-day without much training or back-up. Simultaneously, individuals and families have little support in how to approach professionals about these documents, and they can be difficult conversations. In a patient-centered environment that meaningfully accounts for social, economic, and environmental drivers of health, we have to better support these high-impact interactions. That's why MLPB is building a range of tools and services that support better quality, more effective communication between patients and providers in these high-stakes contexts.  

“[B]ecause I had accessed the Getting to School Safely tipsheet, I was able to assist a mother, whose child had a serious illness that made her vulnerable to certain weather conditions,on whether she would qualify for door to door transportation. I was also able to complete my part of our successful request efficiently and in a way that protected the patient’s privacy. . .

The Caring for My Loved One and Keeping my Job tip sheet was useful to me today as I worked with a mother who had missed a significant number of days of work due to her child (my patient’s) illness and was anticipating more missed work due to multiple follow up appointments. . . . The tip sheet educated me . . . in real time and saved me an internet search to figure out what the term [FMLA] meant; it also guided me through the nuts and bolts of completing the stack of papers that she brought to clinic.”

January 2015 Testimonial of Genevieve Preer, MD
Pediatrician, Boston Medical Center

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