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SDOH Data Analytics

As more healthcare professionals and policymakers come to recognize the importance of social determinants of health (SDOH), SDOH data analytics offer a valuable tool to collect, assess, and apply information about these myriad factors in order to improve health outcomes and address health disparities. 

To address such disparities, healthcare providers alongside public health professionals and policymakers are increasingly relying upon data analytics to identify the social factors that impact health outcomes while simultaneously attempting to develop interventions that address the disparities. Data analytics, of course, refers to the process of utilizing advanced technologies and statistical methodologies to analyze and extract information from large sets of data. 

SDOH research shows that social determinants of health can play a vital role in the health outcomes and well-being of individuals and communities alike. Determinants may include factors like socioeconomic status, employment, education, access to housing, social support networks, access to necessary healthcare, as well as environmental elements. 

By combining information from SDOH data sources, SDOH data vendors, and SDOH data analytics, healthcare providers can better understand and address social disparities within the realm of healthcare. For instance, by analyzing data on access to healthcare services and medical professionals, analysts can identify vulnerabilities or gaps in access to care and help implement programs that improve access to healthcare services for underserved populations and communities. In a similar vein, by analyzing data related to food deserts or food insecurity, analysts can develop programs that increase people’s access to healthy food – especially in communities where access to fresh, healthy produce is lacking. 

Additionally, SDOH data elements show that addressing the cause of various social determinants is essential to reducing health disparities and improving the overall population’s baseline health. By better understanding and addressing the social and economic factors that can adversely impact health, healthcare providers can develop more effective interventions and policies to promote health equity and support local communities. 

Data analytics can also be leveraged to monitor the impact of various interventions and track the progress toward reducing identified health disparities. By measuring and analyzing health outcome data and SDOH over time, healthcare professionals and policymakers can determine whether interventions are effective and adjust their approach if necessary. For these reasons and many others we will discuss in greater detail below, data analytics offers a powerful solution to help address health disparities negatively impacting underserved communities while promoting health equity by identifying and addressing the social factors that ultimately contribute to poor health outcomes. 

Social Determinants Of Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are several socially determined factors that comprise the social determinants of health, but exactly what are the five social determinants of health? The CDC identifies five broad categories: behavior, genetics, environmental and physical influences, medical care, and other social factors. 

In addition to a person’s ability to access healthcare, SDOH like education, income, and employment can also impact health outcomes. Individuals with higher levels of education, for example, generally tend to have better health outcomes than people who have had fewer educational opportunities. This is due, in part, to the fact that individuals with higher levels of education oftentimes have access to higher-paying jobs and therefore, higher incomes, which can provide access to better healthcare and additional resources that help to promote better health outcomes. 

On the other hand, people with lower average incomes may lack access to basic human needs – healthy, fresh food, safe and reliable housing, clean drinking water – and resources that generally promote good health. Lower-income individuals may also be more likely to develop unhealthy behaviors like tobacco, alcohol, or other substance abuse as a coping mechanism. 

A person’s housing situation and/or neighborhood conditions can also have a significant impact on health outcomes. People who live in neighborhoods with greater instances of violent crime, or people who live in older homes with environmental hazards such as lead paint or pipes are also generally at a greater risk for developing health issues like asthma and other respiratory conditions. 

In order to address these health disparities and promote greater access to better health outcomes, it is vitally important to not only understand but to address the social factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. By focusing on SDOH and utilizing data analytics tools to recognize areas of need and develop effective, targeted interventions, healthcare professionals and public health experts can reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes for everyone. 

Social Determinants Of Health Examples

Now that we have covered what are the 5 determinants of health, we can delve deeper into some of the finer details related to social determinants of health examples. General SDOH examples may include things like access to healthcare services, access to education, income and/or employment, access to safe and secure housing, and even a person’s zipcode. 

As alluded to earlier, access to healthcare services is one of the most important social determinants of health that can impact a person’s health outcomes. People who have less access to healthcare services may delay seeking care or forgo receiving care altogether, which can lead to undiagnosed or untreated health conditions. This, in turn, can result in poorer health outcomes in the long term and negatively impact the health of others within this community as well. Underserved communities and low-income populations are typically less able to access vital healthcare services. 

An individual’s social support networks can also significantly contribute to health outcomes. Studies have shown that social isolation and lack of social support can play a part in exacerbating negative health outcomes by causing depression and/or anxiety. By investing in social programs and providing communities with the resources they need so that people can seek the healthcare they need, policymakers and healthcare professionals can improve the overall health of a community.

In some cases, racism and other forms of discrimination can also negatively impact health outcomes and lead to health disparities among unique populations. By cultivating a better understanding of the social determinants of health and enacting policies or other interventions to promote health equity, we can promote better health outcomes for all individuals in every community. 

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Social Determinants Of Health Screening Tool

Within a social determinants of health framework, healthcare providers can utilize a social determinants of health screening tool to conduct an SDOH survey or aid in the process of SDOH data collection. These tools are designed to assist healthcare providers in identifying patients who may be susceptible to poor health outcomes due to various social or economic factors. 

These tools usually consist of a series of SDOH questions – social determinants of health questions that generally seek to provide information about the social and economic factors that influence health outcomes and contribute to health disparities among various populations. By asking these types of questions, healthcare providers can better identify various social determinants of health that may be impacting a patient’s health outcomes. 

By identifying patients who may be at a greater risk of poor health outcomes due to SDOH, healthcare professionals can implement strategies or frameworks to address these factors and help prevent the development or exacerbation of chronic diseases. For instance, a healthcare provider may refer a patient to community or municipal recourses for housing assistance or help with food insecurity.

And as awareness of the impact of SDOH on healthcare outcomes continues to improve, the use of screening tools is likely to become more commonly utilized within healthcare settings. 

Why Are Social Determinants Of Health Important

Innumerable factors contribute to a person’s health outcomes including genetics and lifestyle choices, but why are social determinants of health important? And why is it important to know how to use SDOH data in healthcare applications? Promoting health literacy helps individuals make better health decisions, and it can also help individuals understand when they need to seek healthcare, how to understand healthcare information, and navigate the often-complex healthcare systems.

CDC social determinants of health help provide a framework for understanding how socioeconomic and environmental factors can contribute to health outcomes and health disparities while providing additional guidance for addressing negative health outcomes and health disparities. Whether it’s housing, employment, education, transportation, or social support, there are a number of factors that can contribute to or detract from a person’s ability to receive the healthcare they need in order to survive and live a fulfilling life.

Social determinants of health education begins with raising awareness about the impact of social, economic, and environmental elements on health outcomes and promoting a fuller understanding of how addressing these factors can improve overall health equity. SDOH education is an essential component of addressing health disparities and promoting health equity. By raising awareness, individuals and communities can come together to develop a better understanding of how SDOH contribute to health disparities.

With SDOH referral platforms, healthcare providers can connect patients with social and community services that address SDOH factors like food or housing insecurity, transportation barriers, and other things to improve health outcomes for everyone. Essentially, healthcare providers can seek to improve the quality of care everyone receives by recognizing and addressing the social detriments of health.

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