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Episode 147: Education, Empowerment and Engagement: How Digital Tools are Improving the Patient Experience. Amanda Bury, Infermedica

April 26, 2023

Written by Samantha Holvey, Director of Workgroups & Communication

National Minority Health Month is observed every April to raise awareness regarding health disparities that exist among different racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), minority populations experience higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These disparities are often the result of social determinants of health (SDoH), which are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.

SDoH data include a wide range of factors such as poverty, education, access to health care, and social support. The importance of SDoH has been increasingly recognized in recent years, and there have been significant advances in the collection and analysis of these important data.

One of the major advances in SDoH has been the integration of this data into electronic health records (EHRs).  By capturing and leveraging SDoH in EHRs, health care providers can gain a more comprehensive understanding of their patients' health needs and develop more effective treatment plans.

Another important advance in SDoH has been the development of data visualization tools. These tools can be used by health care providers and policymakers to analyze and present data in a way that is easy to understand and interpret. For example, maps can be created to show the distribution of health outcomes and SDoH across different geographic areas. This type of data visualization can help decision makers better identify areas of need and allocate resources more effectively.

In addition to these advances in data collection and analysis, there have been efforts to address SDoH at the policy level. For example, the 2010 Affordable Care Act includes provisions that aim to improve health equity by addressing SDoH. The legislation established the National Quality Strategy, which includes a focus on health equity, and the creation of the Community Health Needs Assessment requirement for nonprofit hospitals.

Despite these advances, there is still much work to be done to address health disparities and improve the capture and utilization of SDoH data. This work requires a multi-faceted approach that includes data collection and analysis, policy changes, and community engagement. By working together and eliminating siloed work efforts, health care professionals, policymakers, and community advocates can make progress towards achieving health equity for all.

SDoH plays a critical role in shaping health outcomes for minority populations. Advances in SDoH data collection and analysis have the potential to improve our understanding of these factors and develop more effective interventions. However, sustained effort is needed to address these critical health disparities.  National Minority Health Month provides an important opportunity to raise awareness about these issues and work collectively and collaboratively towards solutions.

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