Big systems are investing in community health

Community health is a byword for the concept of preventative healthcare. Clinical organizations are increasingly focusing on how to drive down the cost of healthcare provision by positive social interventions which ameliorate many of the factors which lead to ill health, acute admissions and the development of chronic conditions.

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Social factors

It is unsurprising that healthcare systems are turning to a more holistic approach when a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study has shown that only 20% of individual health outcomes relate to access to and quality of clinical care. The other 80% is determined by socioeconomic factors such as housing, environment, exercise, diet and substance abuse. See for the full story.

The focus on preventative healthcare remains a niche specialism within most clinical settings but there is a considerable amount of research and development taking place within this exciting field. Clinical trial services are building upon gains made by pioneering practitioners to determine the ways in which lifestyle and social factors can affect our health.

Impact of poverty

A study across 16 New York zip codes found huge income-related differences relating to the prevalence of severe asthma attacks. It was, therefore, stipulated that poverty and asthma are inextricably linked. Similarly, there are direct correlations between other conditions like diabetes, and the poor diet and food poverty associated with low-income subsistence lifestyles.
Clinical trials of the sort that companies recruit for, need to be undertaken more widely in the field of community health in order to prove the efficacy of these preventative measures in improving overall key performance indicators in clinical settings.

Community health in action

In the US, large healthcare corporations like Kaiser in southern California and ProMedica in Ohio, are experimenting with how enlisting volunteer groups, charities, businesses, and government agencies to tackle food insecurity, and social factors, which lead to high cost, high-frequency hospital attendance, can result in the overall improvement of health indicators.

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It may be some time before statistics can back up what researchers hope will come to pass as a result of the new emphasis on preventative measures. Already, however, some hospitals have observed lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure markers amongst diabetic patients who have undergone screening and intervention for contributing social factors, which may have been the root cause of their condition.