In the past, we’ve discussed the Social Determinants of Health, a matrix of social and economic factors that determine the overall health of a community or population. The framework was established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which defines social determinants as “conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.”  These include access to fresh food, quality of medical care, employment rates, school conditions, and cultural factors like the spiritual and religious institutions active in a particular area. Changes in any of these factors can affect the overall health of a community.

Discuss some of these issues in depth and discuss how they can drive people to rely on social services and government benefits.

Costs and Benefits

The federal and state governments offer a variety of social programs to aid struggling people in surviving. These include disability assistance, unemployment insurance, SNAP benefits (more commonly referred to as food stamps), Medicaid, and Medicare. Unfortunately, there are a variety of reasons that the number of people who rely on such benefits is higher in some communities than others.

Let’s paint a picture using the social determinants of health: a neighborhood is built near a large hospital, which provides numerous jobs to the residents. This steady source of employment encourages other businesses to open up nearby. First, a supermarket opens to provide food. Later, a rec center and a small shopping mall are built, providing employment opportunities. While the hospital operates, the reliance on government benefits is low, and local property values steadily increase. As a result, a large property tax base begins to pool.

Following some shady financial decisions, the hospital is forced to shut down and lay off much of its staff. The building soon falls into disrepair, and the gap in employment compels many residents to apply for unemployment benefits. Although these benefits are better than nothing, they don’t provide the levels of income the hospital did. The community’s consumer economy shrinks, prompting some other businesses, including the supermarket, to shutter. Although some small discount food marts and convenience stores remain open, none of the remaining food providers offer fresh produce and meat. The drying up of more businesses also prompts people to apply for SNAP benefits. Soon, many other buildings in the area fall into neglect and disrepair. Property values plummet, and the tax base contracts. Slimer tax payments mean public services like schools and emergency services deteriorate.

A once-healthy community has high unemployment levels, sparse medical institutions, low access to fresh food, and crumbling public infrastructure. Thus, each facet of the social determinants of health affects the others. As a result, one significant change in a single factor can compound into a situation where the overall health of a community declines.

Unfortunately, stories like this are all too familiar. However, recent inflation, including rising food prices, has forced many people in the United States to rely more heavily on government benefits and charitable organizations. In times like these, it’s more important than ever to have efficient care coordination methods at your disposal. Contact C3S today to learn how AI can help your community.