Does the city, community, or street matter when it comes to your health? Possibly — and community partners are trying to find out how. A new collaborative called the Utah Alliance for the Determinants of Health was announced at McKay-Dee Hospital on June 27 by Dr. Marc Harrison, Intermountain’s president and CEO.
The collaborative has been formed to promote community health, improve healthcare access, and decrease costs through two demonstration programs in Ogden and St. George.
The goal of the Alliance is to achieve healthier communities, lower healthcare costs, and be a national model for positive changes that other areas of the U.S. can replicate. Here are some answers about what the Alliance is trying to learn and what “social determinants” are.
What are “social determinants of health” and what is the Alliance trying to discover?
The Alliance program seeks to improve what’s known as the “social determinants of health” in specific populations. These are the nonmedical factors that affect people’s health, such as housing instability, utility needs, food insecurity, interpersonal violence, and transportation.
These nonmedical determinants of health are thought to account for up to 60 percent of health outcomes. Addressing these nonmedical health drivers requires innovative, comprehensive, and collaborative solutions from public and private sectors. The alliance program will involve city, county, and state government agencies and other community-based organizations.
“We are very excited to work with our local and statewide partners in this innovative Alliance,” says Mikelle Moore, senior vice president of community health. “By working together in new ways to promote health, we expect to make a real difference in the lives of the people in these programs. The Alliance will lead to healthier communities and will also have a positive impact in slowing the rise of healthcare costs.”
“When we look at improving health, we see that many factors that are influencers that are well beyond the reach of the healthcare system. In fact, many people say that your zip code plays more of a role in your health, and healthcare, than any other factor,” said Dr. Marc Harrison.
How is Intermountain supporting the Alliance?
Intermountain will provide $12 million funding over three years to support the Alliance’s initial demonstration programs — $2 million annually in Ogden and St. George. The initial funding will be used to bolster the impact of numerous preexisting programs currently led by our community partners. The addition of funds will enable Intermountain and its community partners to gain efficiencies in coordinating care and other services that will reduce total spending.
How were the participating communities selected?
Ogden and St. George were selected based on a few factors: their needs, opportunities to partner with other organizations and agencies, and available social services. The initial Alliance program will work with SelectHealth Medicaid-eligible residents in four zip codes: 84401 and 84403 in Ogden, and 84770 and 84790 in St. George.
Alliance program services will be available to qualifying persons without regard to their choice of healthcare provider. On completion of the demonstration, the program will be evaluated for expansion to other populations and areas.
Why do social determinants of health matter?
Americans have shorter lifespans and fare worse on many health indicators, despite spending approximately $3 trillion per year on healthcare — double the per-capita average of other industrialized nations. A small percentage of people in America have extremely complex healthcare needs. To effectively treat those with complex conditions and reduce their continuing medical problems and expense, it is often best to simultaneously address medical treatment and the social determinants of health.
“Addressing social determinants of health increasingly plays a vital role as the country transitions to value and holistic-based healthcare,” says Andrew Croshaw, CEO of Leavitt Partners. “Leavitt Partners is pleased to leverage our expertise regarding social determinants of health, healthcare transformation, and alliances to provide instrumental advisory and strategic support to Intermountain and the Alliance on this initiative.”