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CEO: Social Determinants of Health

June 29, 2022

Scott Thoreson, CCMH Chief Executive Officer

by Scott Thoreson, CCMH Chief Executive Officer

A popular term in healthcare these days is “social determinants of health.” A person’s overall health is comprised of many factors, such as where you live, educational status, socioeconomic status, support networks and access to health care. It has been estimated that only about 20% of a person’s health is attributable to health care provided in a clinic or hospital, thus the vast majority of a person’s health takes place outside the traditional walls of modern medicine. I have been a fan of the old cliché “choose your grandparents wisely!”

A social determinants of health example I have shared in meetings is imagine a person who routinely comes to the emergency department or the clinic with breathing difficulties. After being examined, the patient is prescribed medication and sent on their way. Imagine that this situation plays out time and time again over the course of the year. As we think about social determinants of health, after further investigation it turns out that this person lives in a house that is full of mold and that ultimately is the reason for their many trips to the hospital or clinic. What really needs to take place is that this person either needs to move to a different setting or the mold problem needs to be resolved in their current setting. If the person needs to stay in their current location, resources need to be available to address the mold problem to get it resolved. Health care providers will need to interact with other partners to make progress on this kind of example and find funding to get it accomplished. Thus, this is a completely different way of thinking as it relates to health care providers versus the traditional medical model.

CCMH is required to complete a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) every three years in order to fulfill the requirements of the Accountable Care Act. Many hospitals are categorized as not for profit which means that they don’t have to pay most kinds of taxes. As a result of this tax benefit, the government expects that hospitals will utilize their resources to address the healthcare related issues in their communities while not necessarily receiving any reimbursement for these efforts. A CHNA is a comprehensive review of the most pressing issues related to healthcare and area residents. This is a report that is developed and reported on hospital websites and it involves a great deal of cooperation in obtaining and reviewing data along with conducting surveys.

A hospital by themselves can’t successfully address issues brought up in the CHNA. As a result, CCMH has connected with a number of community partners who have a common connection with individuals who are impacted with the diseases, chronic conditions, or subject matter which have been chosen through the CHNA process. A broad coalition is currently working on addressing the topic of mental health and substance abuse. The goal of this coalition is to come up with some actionable items and ultimately to implement those items which will favorably impact the lives of those people who struggle with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.

Beyond the topic of mental health and substance abuse, other issues which will garner attention through the current CHNA process will be obesity, addressing the needs of the uninsured and underinsured, vaccine education and affordable housing. The CHNA timespan is three years thus these topics will be pursued in 2021, 2022 and 2023 and towards the end of this period a new CHNA will be undertaken to determine the efforts that will be directed and pursued at that time.

I hope this article has provided a bit more of an insight about social determinants of health and how important they are in the overall view of a person’s health. Tools such as the CHNA help us to unearth the topics which arise out of social determinants of health. If you have a certain topic you would like us to discuss please reach out to us at I wish you good health!

More in this Series:

CEO: Holiday Message (Published December 20, 2021)

CEO: Different Types of Hospital Ownership (Published February 1, 2022)

CEO: A Hospital is Still a Business (Published March 16, 2022)

CEO: Why Healthcare is Expensice (Published May 4, 2022)

CEO: National Hospital Week (Published May 11, 2022)