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Intermountain Alliance to Address Social Determinants of Health

The Utah Alliance for the Determinants of Health will work to create social supports that drive health equity and address the social determinants of health.

social determinants of health

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Intermountain Healthcare plans to invest $12 million in programs to coordinate community care services that address the social determinants of health in two Utah cities, the organization recently announced.

These funds will bolster the Utah Alliance for the Determinants of Health, a multi-stakeholder coalition aimed at reducing the adverse health impacts of the social determinants of health for Medicaid patients living in Ogden and St. George, Utah.

Each city will receive $2 million in funding over the course of three years. Additionally, the Alliance will benefit from a $100,000 donation from Zion Bank.

The Alliance has adopted tactics included in the Accountable Health Communities model created by CMS. The program will screen Utah’s HealthSelect Medicaid members for the social determinants of health, work with community resources to address those social concerns, and coordinate efforts between different community and healthcare groups.

The program will initially target patients living in Ogden-area zip codes 84401 and 84403, as well as St. George zip codes 84770 and 84790. Following pilot demonstrations, Alliance leaders will assess program efficacy and make plans to expand Alliance benefits across the state of Utah.

These areas were selected as the result of a community health needs assessment analysis that revealed underserved areas within Utah that suffer from limited health equity. Patients in this area face an onslaught of social circumstances that hinder their ability to achieve a healthy lifestyle, the Alliance announcement suggested.

These plans come as a part of Intermountain and the state of Utah’s efforts to improve overall patient health by addressing the social determinants of health, Alliance leaders said. Up to 60 percent of patient health can be influenced by the social determinants of health, meaning that implementing appropriate social supports can create an overall culture of wellness.

This has positive implications for individual patient health, as well as the growing healthcare costs stemming from the rise of chronic disease and poor care management.

Specifically, the social determinants of health can include transportation, access to comprehensive health payer coverage, food security, consistent housing versus homelessness, adverse climate impacts, public safety, and a litany of other social factors. The Alliance did not specify which social determinants of health Ogden and St. George primarily face.

Overall, Alliance members hope to see programs address community health concerns and reduce climbing healthcare costs. When a patient is able to focus on her health instead of her social circumstances, it is more likely she will not need to utilize costly healthcare resources.

“We are very excited to work with our local and statewide partners in this innovative Alliance,” said Mikelle Moore, Intermountain Healthcare’s Senior Vice President, Community Health. “By working together in new ways to promote health, we expect to make a real difference in the lives of the people in these programs. The Alliance will lead to healthier communities and will also have a positive impact in slowing the rise of healthcare costs.”

The social determinants of health have received healthcare industry focus increasingly over the course of that past year. As more healthcare organizations embrace value-based care models, they are looking to care for the patient at a lower cost outside the traditional four walls of the hospital or clinic.

In many cases, community health programs that address the social determinants of health are lower-cost options to mitigating patient health needs, according to Andrew Croshaw, CEO of Leavitt Partners, which will be playing an advisory role for Intermountain Healthcare’s fledgling Alliance.

“Addressing social determinants of health increasingly plays a vital role as the country transitions to value and holistic-based health care,” Croshaw explained. “Leavitt Partners is pleased to leverage our expertise regarding social determinants of health, health care transformation, and alliances to provide instrumental advisory and strategic support to Intermountain and the Alliance on this initiative.”

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