SDOH: What’s Keeping You Healthy?

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By: TAHP | Tuesday, September 14, 2021

September 14, 2021

Madeleine Richter-Atkinson, Jamie Dudensing

Think about all that’s needed throughout the day to maintain a healthy lifestyle—nutritious meals, regular physical activity, access to medical care and pharmacies, clean drinking water, and the opportunity to get a good night’s rest.

For individuals without reliable transportation, nearby grocery stores, safe parks and neighborhoods, or secure housing, getting and staying healthy can be impossible. Collectively referred to as social determinants of health (SDOH), the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age greatly influence their overall wellbeing and the ability to treat illness and chronic conditions.

Ignoring social determinants of health leads to costly interventions, poor health outcomes, and a misuse of resources. For example, a patient who misses a doctor’s appointment due to lack of transportation may later need to visit an ER by ambulance when an untreated infection becomes life threatening. Or a diabetic patient may have trouble controlling their blood sugar without access to fresh, healthy food options—resulting in severe side effects and more costly treatments.

Understanding the role of social and environmental factors when it comes to helping people live happy, productive lives, health plans are strategically addressing social determinants of health. A whole-person approach to health care that includes addressing SDOH results in more efficient use of resources and better results for everyone.

Removing barriers to care that are a result of SDOH empowers individuals to take responsibility for their health. For example, by ensuring access to prescription drugs at the correct dosages, patients can take their medicine consistently and as prescribed. Or, by removing mold from a home and fixing recurring leaks, a child suffering from asthma can stay healthy and not need to miss school due to illness.

When SDOH are statically addressed, everyone benefits: individuals see better health outcomes, taxpayers save money, families experience greater stability, and communities benefit from more healthy, productive members.

Join TAHP for our upcoming series delving into five categories of SDOH: housing, employment, food, education, and transportation. In each article, we will explain the issues at hand, explore potential solutions, and discuss what is already being done by Texas health plans and the Texas Legislature to address the issues.


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