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PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute recently released their new report: “Action Required: The Urgency of Addressing Social Determinants of Health.” Anyone in health care eager to save on costs and create efficient medical interventions should review this report. This piece provides a review of report, highlighting the five steps PwC recommends taking to lead in social determinants of health (SDOH).


Even though medicine is advancing, and the world is becoming wealthier—about 1.1 billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty than in 1990, according to the World Bank—the world is not growing healthier. Rates of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease rose consistently from 2000 through 2016. The growing epidemic of obesity makes people more prone to these chronic diseases. The share of the population deemed obese in countries part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development rose from 53.9% in 2014 to 65.2% in 2017.

For all the progress we’ve made as a society in advancing medicine to address these chronic health problems, SDOH undercuts that progress, especially as some health care stakeholders have ignored SDOH. Even the most advanced treatments are rendered ineffective if a patient lacks housing or has poor nutrition. Not only does this stymie doctors’ efforts, it harms patient health and forces health plans to spend more. In this context, it is ever more important for stakeholders to proactively address SDOH.

Five steps for bold action in addressing SDOH

  1. Build the collective will – ownership and responsibility are clear when true costs are understood.
    • Articulating the overall costs to health systems and society can help motivate players. Having facts and figures that cannot be disputed helps anchor partners in the discussion.
  2. Develop standard but adaptable frameworks – coalition partners should adopt a common framework to clear obstacles and fast-track efforts to work together.
    • A guiding framework will allow partners to work together effectively towards their common purpose. The framework should establish clear roles and set forth a common vocabulary, goals, definition of value and decision-making protocols.
  3. Generate data insights to inform decision making – data analytics can guide your plan.
    • Using predictive analytics can illuminate areas to target, which means less time and money wasted chasing ineffective interventions.
  4. Engage and reflect the community – SDOH programs must be grounded in the reality of how people live in work.
    • The success of any SDOH strategy ultimately depends on the targeted community’s response. Those carrying out the intervention must have the credibility and knowledge to work in the area so they can build trust in the population.
  5. Measure and redeploy – partners must use evidence to fine-tune and grow SDOH efforts and to keep partners accountable.
    • Successful SDOH intervention campaigns are exercises in continual improvement, in which experience, data and insights are gathered and fed back into the systems. Feedback enables the development of improved strategies and shows where partners need to build better SDOH capabilities or strengthen processes. Stakeholders can look at financial or biological metrics.

These five steps will help stakeholders save money, improve patient health and preserve the impact of medical treatments.




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