by Ian Maki, MPH, a research associate/program manager at GHRI’s Center for Community Health and Evaluation
You may have heard that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [people!] do nothing.” And you probably already know that upstream factors—like income, race, housing, neighborhood, education, transportation, and trauma—influence population health outcomes more than do genetic inheritance, individual health/risk behaviors, and health care combined. But what are you doing about these social determinants of health?
Health care providers, staff, and systems have standing in the community to advocate on these issues. We treat and study the consequences of poor access to these determinants of health in our clinics and at Group Health Research Institute (GHRI). That’s what attendees heard on September 12 as Group Health’s Health Equity and Access Team (HEAT) hosted our best-attended event to date. More than 100 people—from all across Group Health and well beyond—participated in “Better Care Isn’t Our Biggest Health Challenge,” a panel discussion of the social determinants of health.
GHRI does a lot of research related to these social determinants, so it’s not surprising that many active HEAT members work at GHRI. The Group Health Physicians board of directors sponsors HEAT, which focuses on issues of the medically underserved. With Group Health colleagues, many faculty and staff within GHRI helped to plan and facilitate the event’s small-group discussions of the role health care providers and systems should play in addressing the social determinants of health.
Group Health Physician Charles Mayer, MD, who leads HEAT, introduced the moderator Stephen Tarnoff, MD, Group Health Physicians’ president and chief medical executive, and the panelists.
After the panelists’ presentations, the audience broke into facilitated small groups, each of which conducted lively discussions to address the question, “What role do health care systems and providers play in addressing the social determinants of health?” The groups surfaced many additional questions, to which the panelists provided some answers at the conclusion of the meeting.
On September 29 at noon, Leana S. Wen, MD, MSc, will speak by video to Group Health Physicians’ Continuing Medical Education Medical Staff Videoconference Series—following up on her 2016 Group Health Birnbaum Lecture. You can watch video excerpts of that lecture here. Dr. Mayer and HEAT were key in connecting with Dr. Wen, who is the Baltimore City Health Commissioner.
On November 7 at 6 p.m., HEAT’s next meeting will explore more of the new questions raised at the September 12 event. This meeting will also include discussions of the answers to the original question from the various small groups. Please join us.
And please let your voice be heard.