Struggles with unemployment, food insecurity and unstable housing can take a serious toll on individuals’ health, and stronger social supports could play a key role in improving their well-being, according to an advocacy group.
While national health reform and the Affordable Care Act have focused largely on improving access to and the quality of health care, socioeconomic factors – like housing, employment and food security – play a larger role in someone’s overall health than clinical factors, according to the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut.
“Health is affected by many other things, not just whether you have access to a doctor, access to health care,” said Jill Zorn, senior policy officer at the foundation. “If you’re really interested in improving health, it’s not just about clinical care.”
In fact, just 20 percent of a person’s health is attributed to clinical are, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 10 percent is attributed to physical environment, 30 percent to health behaviors and 40 percent – the largest share – is tied to socioeconomic factors, according to the CDC.
For many, particularly those who are low-income, there can often be a disconnect between the clinical care they receive and the realities of their life, Zorn said. If a doctor advises a patient to take regular walks to improve his health but the patient lives in an unsafe neighborhood, for instance, it can be difficult for the patient to follow the recommendation, she said.
An upcoming forum hosted by the Universal Health Care Foundation will focus on the role that communities and social services play in people’s health. The event, “Getting to Better Health: Connecting Care and Community,” will take place from 8 a.m. to noon April 29 at Quinnipiac University’s Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at 370 Bassett Road in North Haven.
Elizabeth Bradley, professor at the Yale School of Public Health, will be the keynote speaker at the event. She is co-author of the book “The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More is Getting Us Less.”
Bradley will speak about the need for increased investment in social supports and community-based resources to improve health. Her research has found that the United States outspends other countries when it comes to health care but typically has worse outcomes, likely because the United States spends less on social services than other countries do, Zorn said.
Jenney Samuelson, assistant director of Vermont’s Blueprint for Health, also will speak at the event, discussing efforts to deploy community health care teams in Vermont.
Vermont has been a trailblazer in deploying community health workers to assess the various factors impacting residents’ health and connect people to social services when needed, Zorn said.
The event also will include a panel discussion with Connecticut-based experts. Panelists include Molly Gavin of Connecticut Community Care Inc., Yolanda Lopez of Clifford Beers Clinic, Gina Muslim of Community Solutions’ Northeast Hartford Partnership, and Lawrence Young of St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center’s Curtis D. Robinson Center for Health Equity. Mehul Dalal of the state Department of Public Health will moderate.
Networking and a light breakfast will take place from 8 to 9 a.m., followed by the program from 9 a.m. to noon. General admission tickets are $20; patron tickets with reserved seating are $50. More information and registration are available at universalhealthct.org.