Understanding and Addressing Social Determinants of Health to Achieve Health Equity and Improve Outcomes

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, as a share of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), health spending accounted for 17.5%. While this represents a significant portion of our GDP, as a whole, our nation’s health outcomes are not representative of that investment and in many ways lag behind many other industrialized nations. Even more concerning is when you start to peel back the reasons behind these outcomes, and an alarming number of disparities become apparent:

  • African-American women are 10% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and over 40% more likely to die from the disease, compared to non-Hispanic white women
  • Hispanic adults are 7 times more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic white adults
  • Asian/Pacific Islander adults are more than 2 times more likely to have liver and bile duct cancer than non-Hispanic white adults

These are just a few of the health disparities that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Social determinants, including barriers to care – such as language and culture, lack of access to preventive and urgent care, lack of health insurance, and fear of deportation – often mean that these population groups are also less likely to receive the quality preventive care they need.

To begin to impact health outcomes, we need to ensure that the communications and services we provide are culturally and linguistically tailored to specific population groups. Understanding the unique socio-demographic characteristics of the individual patients and individuals we are engaging, as well as the best ways to reach them, are critical success factors.

In order to yield greater results, Eliza works with our clients to create tailored, culturally appropriate approaches to member engagement. For some ideas on how you can engage your Hispanic member populations in their health and healthcare, take a look at the recent blog post written by Mara Jimenez, Eliza’s Bilingual Health Engagement Designer. –Or, if you prefer, read it in Spanish!

To learn more about Eliza’s tailored approach to member engagement, please contact us at:eliza@hms.com.

 About the Author:

Sarah McLaughlin, MPH brings 15 years of experience working in health and human services on program planning, strategic and organizational planning, and population analysis. Sarah joined Eliza in 2014 as a Consultant on the Consulting Services team. In her role, Sarah is primarily responsible for leading comprehensive, health engagement projects and working with clients on strategic business solutions across the healthcare space – payers, providers and PBMs – to design, develop, and implement integrated, technology-enabled solutions that more effectively engage consumers and improve outcomes.

Prior to joining Eliza, Sarah was a consultant working with local, state, and federal health and human services agencies on projects utilizing behavioral economics and population analysis to drive outreach and engagement strategies through targeted behavior-change interventions. Areas of expertise include chronic disease, preventive health, as well as maternal and child health. Sarah has a Master of Public Health degree from Boston University and a BA from
Bryn Mawr College.


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