Addressing the Impact of Social Determinants of Health

There are many factors that determine a person’s health, and not all of these are physical. Studies have indicated that as many as 60-70% of health outcomes are determined by social, environmental, and/or behavioral risk factors. For example, all of these things can impact your health: are you employed? Do you have a support network, house, and car? Do you avoid using tobacco & alcohol, eat well, and get enough sleep? These are examples of things that make up the “social determinants of health.”

Most of these factors can’t be treated by a doctor in the clinic; there’s no pill they can prescribe or test they can order for loneliness, homelessness, or unemployment. But the potential impact of these factors on health cannot be ignored. At Southcentral Foundation, the overall wellness of customer-owners is our highest priority, so we want to pay attention to all the factors – social, environmental, and behavioral – that may impact a customer-owner’s health.

In order for providers to be able to offer support regarding social determinants of health, they must first understand who the customer-owner is, where they come from, and what their life is like. This means the relationship between a primary care provider and a customer-owner is incredibly important. By understanding each customer-owner’s unique story, providers can offer support that goes beyond treatment for illnesses and helps customer-owners live healthier lives. Sometimes this support can fall outside the scope of “traditional” medical care. Some ways SCF offers this type of non-traditional care include:

  • The Dena A Coy Residential Treatment Program. This program serves pregnant, parenting, and non-parenting women who are experiencing problems related to alcohol and other drugs and experiencing emotional and psychological issues.
  • The Native Men’s Wellness Program. This program offers support to Alaska Native and American Indian men in many different areas, including employability, cultural connectivity, and healthy living.
  • Learning Circles. Learning Circles are a form of group therapy based on the Alaska Native value of sharing story and listening to others share theirs. SCF offers Learning Circles on a variety of topics free of charge to customer-owners.
  • Beauty for Ashes. Beauty For Ashes uses culturally-grounded approaches to health and healing from trauma, such as relationship building, intergenerational role modeling, and sharing story, to develop knowledge and skills that promote healing and improved social health outcomes.

SCF has also been working to examine our medical record data to identify where we can track social determinants of health. That has allowed us to create a framework expanding access to this kind of data in the medical record without stigmatizing customer-owners. In the years ahead, SCF will work to continue expanding engagement with social determinants of health data. For more information on how SCF engages with social determinants of health, contact the SCF Learning Institute today!