Community health centers (CHCs) provide quality healthcare in rural, low-income and underserved populations. All individuals receive comprehensive, integrated primary, dental and behavioral healthcare regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. The nine CHC networks across the Dakotas provide access to healthcare to nearly 120,000 individuals in 51 communities.

Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas LogoAs the primary care association for North and South Dakota, the Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas (CHAD) partners with CHCs and other to enhance access to care, expand service offerings, and foster healthy families and healthy communities.  Their new initiative to track social determinants of health data will assist with identifying and preventing adverse health events within their patient population.

“Addressing social determinants of health is truly engrained into the health center culture,” explained Lori Dumke, BSN MSN, director of clinical and quality services for CHAD. “By collecting meaningful data about patients’ lives, we can disrupt the cycle of social inequities and reduce health disparities.”

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) developed a universal screening tool called Protocol for Responding to and Assessing Patients’ Assets, Risk, and Experiences (PRAPARE) to collect social determinants of health data for review and analysis.

“The real work starts after the screening tool has been implemented,” Dumke declared and expanded on the value of the data. “Rather than treating a patient after a health event or complication, this data will help us identify the root cause of the issue to improve long-term health outcomes and decrease healthcare costs.”

CHAD is currently in the process of hiring a Health Equity Manager to advance their commitment to improve social drivers of health and equity on multiple levels.

“Health centers can use social determinants of health data to define and document the increasing complexity of their patients’ lives,” Dumke continued. “We are committed to the upstream movement and believe to truly understand a patient’s health, one must look at where a patient lives, works/educates, and plays.”