COVID-19 and the Societal Factors Influencing Health

By The SHSMD Team posted 02-03-2021 12:37 PM


Food, housing, employment and other insecurities have swelled during the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals and health systems across the country are implementing creative strategies to address these issues, and planners and marketers can play an important role in advancing this work in their organizations.

Addressing Housing and Food Insecurities

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the social and economic circumstances that make some people more likely than others to become ill or have poor health. It has grown ever more urgent for hospitals to take steps to address the societal factors that lead to health inequities.

Health care organizations are helping to address the problem of food insecurity, which is hitting minority communities the hardest. Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, for example, has partnered with community groups to deliver food, personal protective equipment and other items to Black families. The multi-pronged effort is a partnership between Henry Ford and the United Way of Southeastern Michigan, funded through a grant from Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort.

Meanwhile, housing instability is also a growing concern amid the pandemic as mounting job losses leave individuals unable to pay their rents and mortgages. Higher percentages of Latinos and African Americans report they are struggling to cover housing costs compared to whites, according to the Pew Research Center.

To address this issue, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has developed a screening tool to gauge patients’ ability to self-quarantine if testing positive for COVID and connect them to shelters if needed. UAMS was able to develop its Ability to Self-Quarantine Screener and integrate it into the electronic health record in 30 days.

Sheppard Pratt — a Maryland-based private, nonprofit provider of mental health, substance use, special education, developmental disability and social services — has also increased its focus on housing inequities arising from the pandemic.

To help address the problems, Sheppard Pratt uses service-enriched housing that is either owned or leased by the organization or one of its affiliates along with evidence-based practices, including supported employment, assertive community treatment and motivational interviewing.

Sheppard Pratt also offers rehousing services aimed at quickly getting clients off the streets. Those come coupled with financial assistance for rent and housing location services. In addition, intensive case management is available that connects individuals to transportation, employment, childcare, behavioral health and legal assistance programs.

Role of Planners and Marketers

Planners and marketers can play an important role as hospitals and health systems increasingly address the societal factors that influence health in their strategic plans. They can make a difference by being catalysts to furthering this important work in their organizations and the communities they serve and by getting the word out to patients and the public.

Learning More

SHSMD members can read the full article in the most recent edition of Spectrum, including details about the steps that the Henry Ford Health System, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Sheppard Pratt have taken to address food and housing insecurities among their patients and clients and in the community. Nonmembers, learn more about SHSMD and join. SHSMD members can also share resources, ideas and questions with peers in the MySHSMD community.

Societal Factors that Influence Health: A Framework for Hospitals is a new resource from the AHA to guide hospitals as they develop strategies to address the social needs of their patients, the social determinants of health in their communities and the systemic causes that lead to health inequities.

The Addressing Social Determinants of Health Presentation from the AHA looks at how social determinants impact patients and communities as well as what hospitals are doing to address this important aspect of health.

Investing in Community Health: A Toolkit for Hospitals is a resource from the Center for Community Investment, in collaboration with the Catholic Health Association, to help hospital leaders and staff add investment capital to their toolboxes for improving community health.
1 comment


02-22-2021 09:31 AM

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has caused a dramatic increase in Social Determinants of Health. Great to see organizations addressing it first-hand. At Nebraska Health Network, we partnered with Aunt Bertha to launch This free resource enables providers and community members to securely search for local services and support. As communicators, we see this as a tremendous way to give back to the community and provide a resource available to everyone, not just patients within our ACO's network.