This wasn’t your typical discussion about social determinants of health. Today at Day 2 of this year’s Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York City, one of the sessions bore the title, “Four Solutions to Improving the Social Determinants of Health, Right Here, Right Now.”
Yes, that’s the word “solutions” in the title. Not “problems” or “99 problems” or “yeah, such is life.” Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play” that “affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s been established over and over again that your environmental, social, job, and economic situations can greatly affect your health. In the words of Spandau Ballet, this much is true.
A big problem, though, is how these SDOH issues have been discussed or handled or, rather, not handled to date. Using the voice of Homer Simpson, most of the discussions have been like “d’oh, what do we do about SDOH, this massive problem?” What do we do about the fact that people of different geographies, different races, different ethnicities, different genders, and different socioeconomic statuses can face very, very different conditions at their homes, their neighborhoods, their workplaces. These in turn can lead to very different health risks and outcomes. For many conferences, meetings, and studies, the conclusions have been “d’oh”, these are big, big problems, let’s break for some coffee and talk about something else.
Well, with the title of session including the words “four solutions” and “right here, right now,” there was no waiting in this session for the coffee break. The moderator, Stephen K. Klasko, M.D., M.B.A., President of Thomas Jefferson University and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Jefferson Health, jumped right into what the title said, right then. His opening remarks briefly included the following statements:“For way too long, discussing social determinants of health has been an academic exercise,” and “we have always talked about the problems without talking about the solutions,” and “(he was) excited to talk about solutions.”