RISE looks at recent headlines concerning social determinants of health (SDoH).

CMS considering adoption of first standardized federal measures to assess SDoH

The measures under review are the first of their kind to be accepted to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) “measures under consideration” list.

While the impacts of addressing SDoH have been increasingly documented over the years, there have yet to be any standardized SDoH measures in any CMS programs, making it difficult to account for SDoH in federal health care policymaking.

Recognizing the lack of SDoH data issue, CMS has taken steps to advance health equity by collecting demographic and social needs data in their models and demonstrations, according to a recent blog post from The Commonwealth Fund. In August 2021, CMS cited the need for “patient-level demographic data and standardized social needs data.” In the CMS Innovation Center strategy report, released in October, the agency furthered its efforts by stating that all new models will require participants, when appropriate, to collect and report beneficiaries’ demographic data and social needs data.

Amid CMS’ annual invitation for new measures in May 2021, the Physicians Foundation, which is directed by 21 states and county medical societies throughout the country, submitted the first-ever SDoH measures focused on patient screenings, food insecurity, housing insecurity, transportation, utility needs, and interpersonal safety, including domestic violence. CMS has accepted the measures, which have been used in more than 600 clinical settings and undergone extensive validation, to its “measures under consideration” list.

The proposed measures are still under review, however, should they become adopted, they will mark the first standardized federal measures to assess social needs in the history of the U.S. health care system.

The RISE Summit on Social Determinants of Health

Sixty percent of Americans say SDoH impact the health of their community

After learning the meaning of SDoH, 60 percent of Americans said their community faces health issues related to SDoH, according to Anthem’s Driving Our Health 2021 study. To better understand how Americans perceive health, Anthem surveyed 5,000 U.S. adults across the country.

Key study findings include:

  • People of color are disproportionately impacted by SDoH, with more Hispanic and Latino (69 percent), Asian (68 percent), Black (68 percent) Americans reporting health issues within their community due to SDoH than white (58 percent) Americans.
  • Although 95 percent of Americans view mental health as crucial to well-being, only 17 percent see a therapist or mental health professional at least once a month.
  • Forty-five percent of Americans do not feel financially secure, most commonly people of color, millennials, those without a college degree, and individuals who live in rural area.
  • Nearly one in three Americans have altered their eating habits due to financial concerns.
  • Americans believe the responsibility to address SDoH falls on health care providers (91 percent), local governments (89 percent), private citizens (87 percent), employers (85 percent), and insurance companies (84 percent).

NIH launches SDoH study

As part of its All of Us Research Program, a program which includes more than 350,000 diverse participants, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a nationwide survey to gather information on social need factors, including neighborhood safety, food security, experiences with health care, discrimination, and work environments, according to NIH. The survey aims to provide researchers with key data to better understand the connection between SDoH and physical well-being.

"Health is about more than our DNA, or what happens at the doctor’s office—it is influenced by a range of factors. Our daily experiences matter to our physical and mental health," said program CEO Josh Denny, M.D., MS. "We are committed to creating a more complete view of our participants’ health, to provide researchers the data needed to identify the interacting root causes of diseases and inequities that influence health."

Program researchers are expected to review survey results by mid-2022.