Improving Health Outcomes by Addressing the Social Determinants

By Kathryn Ruscitto
Monday, April 29, 2019

It’s all connected: housing, jobs, education, environment, personal Behavior, genetics and even access to health care.


Kathryn Ruscitto

We are seeing bold experiments, across the country, to find ways to improve health outcomes. Whether in inner cities or rural outreach, the improvements in addressing the health of individuals and our communities can provide a view on what will achieve improvement in health outcomes.

The focused attention on poverty, and its consequences, naturally connects to the broader health discussion. It is drawing together a variety of organizations to ask important policy questions about public housing, gun violence, education, as well as job locations and transportation to those jobs.

Research tells us that health status is generally a result of genetics, personal behaviors, environment and health care. This is the guiding philosophy that now drives work to integrate all aspects of care.

In Central New York, we have seen focus on improving health outcomes through the CNY Care Collaborative, a forum for all health and not-for-profit organizations. HealthEConnections provides a technology infrastructure that draws information together for the clinical encounter and many regional health organizations are utilizing care planners to assess social problems, including housing, food, transportation and isolation.

Developing patient-centered goals and connecting clinicians, organizations and the community in a common vision will produce better health outcomes across our communities.

The H.O.P.E Initiative, Alliance for Economic Inclusion, Transforming Communities Initiative, Westside Initiative and Blue Print 15 are all community-based projects with broad consumer input that also address broader social determinants.

The recent investment by the C.N.Y. Community Foundation in lead abatement and the Allyn Foundations investment in the Salt City Market Project are great examples of the community-wide discussion leading to funding priorities. Later this year, the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation will be adding to other community investments.

As a region, we ask the important questions about what a community strategy looks like that ensures good health. Clearly it suggests that health providers alone cannot do it. It can be accomplished by connecting those community organizations and advocates who understand community needs, in partnership with providers and clinicians. Clinicians can play an important role in these efforts from volunteering to be on these committees to using your association’s voices to identify those barriers and needs that you encounter as you treat patients.

Jerry Hoffman has always provided good political insights for providers in this column. I would be remiss if I did not remind the readers of MD News how important your voices continue to be through the Medical Society and your associations if we are to improve our community’s health status.