SACRAMENTO, CA / ACCESSWIRE / November 20, 2020 / With the COVID-19 pandemic once again surging across the country, resources and attention are rightly being directed to hospitals and other health care delivery settings. But other factors which also affect health continue to face significant challenges and should not be overlooked.
Recognizing this need and the risk that it might be understandably overshadowed by the equally real needs of the pandemic response, Kaiser Permanente has created a free COVID-19 Social Health Playbook to provide frontline health care workers with guidance and tools for screening patients for social needs, connecting them to help, and following up to ensure their needs are met.
"As patients with COVID-19 symptoms come in for testing and care, wherever possible they should also be screened for access to food, housing, social services, and other needs which can directly affect their health," said Dr. Cynthia Telles, Community Health Committee chair for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Boards of Directors. "Now, more than ever, improving people's health involves more than providing medical and mental health care."
The free playbook focuses on identifying and addressing COVID-19 patients' social needs, both to improve their recovery and to help prevent further community transmission of the virus. It recommends caregivers assess crucial social needs that affect people's health, including having a safe place to live, enough income, healthy meals, and meaningful social connections. The guidance and tools can be used by all health care providers to aid them in assessing COVID-19 patients' needs for social resources. It is publicly available as a free resource for care providers everywhere.
"As the virus is again surging across the country, people's social needs are growing as well, exposing and compounding the health disparities that exist in our society," said Dr. Cynthia Telles. "The economic effects of the pandemic have disproportionately impacted women and people of color, as millions have lost jobs, social connections, and access to services like school-based meals and safe transportation. People cannot get and stay healthy if they aren't able to access food, shelter, and other fundamental needs."
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, research showed that 33% of those surveyed were experiencing stress related to their social needs, and 68% reported having at least one unmet need during the previous year. In a survey of 8,800 Kaiser Permanente members about their social needs, Latinx respondents were nearly 5 times more likely to need assistance with food than white respondents; Black respondents were 3 times more likely to need assistance to pay for utilities than white respondents, and respondents who self-identified as multiracial were more than 5 times more likely to experience transportation issues compared to white respondents.
The playbook and the emphasis it places on social health factors are part of Kaiser Permanente's long-term vision to address disparities in care, expand access, and improve the quality, effectiveness, and value of health care.
SOURCE: Cynthia Telles