RISE looks at recent headlines concerning social determinants of health (SDoH).
Rapid increase in children in ER with suicidal thoughts, study finds
There’s been a concerning spike in children struggling with suicide ideation (SI) since before the pandemic, which has only intensified the issue.
There is a serious mental health crisis among children ages 5 to 19, according to a new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which found a staggering increase in the number of children visiting the emergency department (ED) due to suicidal thoughts in recent years.
For the study, researchers conducted an analysis of youth ED visits for SI in Illinois hospitals from January 2016 to June 2021. They found ED SI visits among children ages 5 to 19 increased by 59 percent from 2016 through 2017 to 2019 through 2021, and hospitalizations increased 57 percent from fall 2019 to fall 2020.
The increase in children visiting the ED for suicidal thoughts is likely attributed to difficulty accessing low cost, high-quality pediatric outpatient services as well as deteriorating mental health conditions among children, explained the researchers. They recommended community-based strategies to address youth mental health such as school-based programs and partnerships with hospitals to provide children with necessary support and expand the pediatric mental health workforce.
Private health insurance companies invest at least $1.87 billion to address SDoH
The top 20 private health insurance companies spent at least $1.87 billion on SDoH between 2017 and 2021, according to a recent study conducted by Harvard University and Oxford University researchers. Of the total investment, the top six insurers by market share were responsible for 72 percent of the social spending.
The largest investments went toward housing ($1.2 billion), food security ($238 million), and general SDoH ($247 million), followed by employment ($58.6 million), education ($57.2 million), social and community context ($49.7 million), and transportation ($13.4 million).
While the investment in social programs is substantial, it’s a small share of the insurer’s profits, noted researchers. UnitedHealth Group, for example, made $6.7 billion in net income in just Q2 of 2020.
CMS releases framework for health equity
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released an updated framework for health equity. The CMS Framework for Health Equity 2022–2032 aims to set a foundation across the health system that will drive structural change and eliminate barriers.
In the report, CMS outlines five priorities to reduce disparities in health care over the next 10 years:
- Improve the collection and use of standardized demographic and SDoH data, including race, ethnicity, language, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, disability status, and social needs.
- Assess disparities in programs and policies and address inequities to close gaps.
- Improve the capacity of health care organizations and the workforce to better meet the needs of their communities.
- Ensure equitable language access, health literacy, and the provision of culturally tailored services.
- Increase accessibility to health care services and coverage for individuals with disabilities, including physical, sensory and communication, intellectual disabilities, and other forms of disability.
“As the nation’s largest health insurer, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has a critical role to play in driving the next decade of health equity for people who are underserved. Our unwavering commitment to advancing health equity will help foster a health care system that benefits all for generations to come,” said LaShawn McIver, Ph.D., director, CMS Office of Minority Health, in the report.
AHA grants $80,000 to entrepreneurs addressing social and health disparities
The American Heart Association (AHA) has granted $80,000 to social and tech entrepreneurs striving to address SDoH.
Candidates presented their business models to a panel of judges AHA’s EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ virtual finale. Through the Business Accelerator, AHA has awarded more than $1.1 million in grants over the last six years to support startups, local entrepreneurs, and organizations targeting SDoH within their communities.
This year’s recipients included a full-spectrum Doula service provider who received $55,000 to further her work empowering healthy birth experiences, particularly among women of color, and a health care organization that received $25,000 for their work in addressing the lack of available health services in rural communities of Palm Beach County, Fla.