quality of life sign

The social and economic conditions of the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age affect a wide range of health, functioning and quality-of-life outcomes.

White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), recently released several resources to help support federal agencies, states, local and tribal governments to better coordinate health care, public health and social services.

1. U.S. Playbook to Address Social Determinants of Health 

social determinants of healthThis Playbook is a launchpad, not a final, comprehensive strategy for addressing Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) and outlines an initial set of framework actions that federal agencies are undertaking to support health by improving the social circumstances of individual and communities. These actions can serve as guideposts for other agencies and organizations from every segment of society to engage in efforts. The Playbook also includes extensive appendices highlighting federal programs, toolkits and guidance that front-line workers and organizations can use to improve their delivery of health and social services. The aim is to accelerate innovation across sectors to develop practical solutions that equitably improve social circumstances and achieve better health outcomes. This playbook focuses on the following three pillars:

1. Expand Data Gathering and Sharing: Advance data collection and interoperability among health care, public health, social care services, and other data systems to better address SDOH with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial support.

2. Support Flexible Funding to Address Social Needs: Identify how flexible use of funds could align investments across sectors to finance community infrastructure, offer grants to empower communities to address HRSNs, and encourage coordinated use of resources to improve health outcomes.

3. Support Backbone Organizations: Support the development of community backbone organizations and other infrastructure to link health care systems to community-based organizations.

2. Call to Action to Address Health Related Social Needs

This HHS Call to Action provides guidance to structure programs that address housing and nutritional insecurity for enrollees in high-need populations. The Call to Action is being issued with the intent of catalyzing efforts at the community-level to encourage partnerships across sectors, including health care, social services, public and environmental health, government, and health information technology to address social needs with the goal of improving the health and well-being of every American. An example is a program providing medically tailored meals or helping homeless youth find and obtain housing.

The Call to Action describes key actions that partners in different sectors can take to help build a stronger, more integrated health and social care system and  provides resources applicable to partners involved in each set of actions. It also discusses the important role that backbone organizations, including community care hubs, can play in managing community-based partnerships across sectors and how they can help develop and sustain the community-based infrastructure needed to improve coordination between health and social care providers.

3. Medicaid and CHIP Health-Related Social Needs Framework

This Framework builds on the Administration’s work to advance health equity by acknowledging that peoples’ social and economic conditions play an important role in their health and wellbeing. to encourage cross-sector partnerships among those working in health care, social services, public and environmental health, government, and health information technology to create a stronger, more integrated health and social care system through shared decision making and by leveraging community resources, to address unmet health related social needs. No one sector can do this work alone, so HHS is issuing a Call to Action to collaborate so that together we can achieve a future in which everyone, regardless of social circumstances, has access to aligned, high-quality, person-centered health and social care systems that can improve health and well-being.

“It is clear that the health of our people does not exist in a vacuum, but it is affected by our access to stable housing, healthy food, and clean air to breathe,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “It is crucial for HHS to tackle health care and public health holistically by addressing patients’ social conditions. Today’s announcement will help to provide opportunities to improve equal access to health care for every American and make progress toward a health system that improves health care outcomes for all Americans instead of advantaged few.”

For more information, access the November 16 Press ReleaseThe Biden-⁠Harris Administration Takes Action to Improve Health and Wellbeing by Addressing Social Determinants of Health