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Unmet social needs a significant barrier to good health

One third of Americans are struggling with stress linked to meeting their basic human needs such as stable housing and reliable transportation, according to a new survey.

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The majority of Americans want medical providers to ask about social needs
The majority of Americans want medical providers to ask about social needs

US citizens ‘overwhelmingly’ want healthcare providers to be instrumental in identifying and addressing non-medical, social determinants of health, according to a new national survey.

 

The survey, conducted by healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente, found that more than two thirds of Americans (68 per cent) surveyed had experienced at least one unmet social need in the past year.

 

Furthermore, one third of respondents reported they are “grappling with stress” tied to meeting their basic human needs such as stable housing, adequate food and reliable transportation.

 

What are the barriers?

 

For the Social Needs in America survey, more than 1,000 US adults were asked about barriers they face in meeting social needs. They were also asked how those barriers prevent them from accessing necessary health care, and how they want their doctors, nurses and other care providers to help bridge those gaps.

 

More than a quarter of those surveyed said that an unmet social need was a barrier to health, with one fifth (21 per cent) prioritising paying for food or rent over seeing a doctor or getting a medication.

 

Among the survey’s topline findings:

  • Americans view social needs as equally important to their health as medical care, with 89 per cent of respondents saying safe and stable housing is very or extremely important to health and four-fifths saying reliable transportation is very or extremely important
  • The vast majority of Americans want their medical providers to ask about social needs, with 97 per cent of respondents saying their providers should ask about social needs during medical visits
  • Those experiencing unmet social needs were twice as likely to rate their health as fair or poor compared to those who did not. A third of respondents reported experiencing stress related to social needs.

“At Kaiser Permanente we think holistically about health, which includes medical care and other factors like access to food, transportation and housing,” said Bernard Tyson, chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente.

 

“By helping close the gap on social needs, we have an opportunity to advance the health of communities across the country and safeguard everyone’s right to thrive.”

 

Alongside the survey results, Kaiser Permanente also announced the first location of Thrive Local social needs resources network in its Northwest region, which includes Oregon and southwest Washington State.

“By helping close the gap on social needs, we have an opportunity to advance the health of communities across the country and safeguard everyone’s right to thrive”

Medical providers there are working to incorporate the tool into the organisation’s electronic health records system to connect people with social resources to meet their specific needs.

 

“We are eager to implement this network into our care delivery system because we know closing social care gaps will improve health outcomes,” added Imelda Dacones, CEO Northwest Permanente.

 

“Social determinants of health, or the economic and social conditions that influence health, drive most health outcomes. To address and create total health, we, as physicians, must have systems and networks that address our patients’ social needs.”

 

“We are intimately familiar with the types of challenges people are struggling with here in the Northwest, and we are eager to engage the appropriate community resources to address those specific needs,” continued Ruth Williams-Brinkley, regional president for Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest.

 

“With Thrive Local, we are excited to have a powerful tool to improve the wellbeing not only of our members, but of entire communities as well.”

 

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