Texas Children’s Center for Child Health Policy and Advocacy new policy brief

Texas Children’s Center for Child Health Policy and Advocacy recently published a policy brief entitled “Social determinants of health: Screening in the clinical setting.”

Various circumstances such as income, housing quality and parental mental health comprise the social determinants of health (SDH) and can significantly alter a child’s health and socioeconomic trajectories. Research suggests the death rates attributed to preventable causes, like inadequately met social needs, mirror those caused by leading medical conditions such as heart attacks and lung cancer.

Given the relevance of social circumstance, many health care organizations are developing innovative methods to address SDH within clinical settings as a possible strategy to enhance patient care, improve health outcomes, and prevent avoidable health care utilization.

The AAP recommends a periodic social needs assessment for all patients. However, it is up to individual institutions to determine when and how often that occurs. Regardless of frequency, it is important to keep documented history of social history, ideally in the medical record. That way providers can track social history over time, and monitor whether intervention components have improved families’ unmet needs. Relatedly, settings should take care to not measure success solely based on screening frequency, or even referral frequency. Instead, institutions should leverage their relationships with community resources to make sure patients actually engage resources and their referrals. Institutions will need to devote a reasonable amount of follow-up to make sure families receive the support they need.

This publicly-available policy brief details these issues and provides recommendations on how best to leverage these findings.