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Health summit panel: COVID-19 offers lessons on social determinants of health

October 16, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has driven home the message on the social factors that form a crucial component of health and ways to address those disparities, panelists said Wednesday in a session at Crain’s Health Care Leadership Summit.

Those social determinants of health, including income, race, place of residence and a host of other factors, were on clear display in the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on Black people, panelists said.

Panelists included Brandi Basket, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Meridian; Marijata Daniel-Echols, M.D., program officer, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Tom Lauzon, CEO, Wellopp; and Phil Levy, M.D., assistant vice president of translational science and clinical research innovation, Wayne State University; and chief innovation officer, Wayne Health.

Addressing the determinants is a big task because it requires thinking about systems far beyond the health care sphere, Daniel-Echols said. And addressing the root causes of health disparities is part of the

“We have to address the social determinants of health to get towards people being able to thrive, but those root causes — racism, sexism, poverty — those are harder,” Daniel-Echols said.

To address this from within the health care sector, panelists cited examples such as a program that offers prescriptions for healthy food at a hospital-run food bank.

Daniel-Echols, Basket and Levy all serve on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities.

The task force decided to focus primarily on getting more people tested as a way to get them to care better and try to equalize outcomes, Daniel-Echols said, and that single focus offers lessons for addressing social determinants of health on a broader scale.

“If you are single-minded in that focus and really put resources behind to do that, you can actually make a difference, and bring more awareness, and test more people, contact trace more people, and make an impact,” Daniel-Echols said.

Finding ways for providers to incentivize addressing social determinants of health can be difficult, but part of the solution is education of providers and patients on resources available, Basket said.

“When we talk about who’s going to pay for it, we have to identify what health plans have available for our members … and offer education to patients or providers on what’s out there,” such as patient transportation services.

Bringing care to people at places in their neighborhoods and partnering with community institutions makes a big difference, Levy said. “In Detroit, the nearest retail center to any person’s home is a pharmacy.”

Levy has led an initiative known as the Phoenix Project, which seeks to address the disproportionate impact of heart disease in Detroit and map population health data down to the neighborhood level.

“How do you take this integration of data … and put it into one common source so that you can talk to the community members, provide a way for them to visualize and conceptualize what may be contributing to their risks and have them be part of the solution,” Levy said.

Read “Health summit panel: COVID-19 offers lessons on social determinants of health” from Crain’s Detroit Business.

Health summit panel: COVID-19 offers lessons on social determinants of health

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