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Intermountain Healthcare, United Way and more partner to address social determinants of health in Utah

This partnership plans to develop scalable programs for addressing the social determinants of health throughout the state.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

In a new initiative, Intermountain Healthcare, United Way of Salt Lake and other state health system partners have come together to address the social determinants of health.

The partnership was kick-started by Intermountain, which committed $5 million in 2019, and brings together players such as: Select Health, HCA MountainStar, Molina Healthcare, University of Utah Health, the University of Utah Health Plans, Steward Health Care, Health Choice, the Utah Hospital Association, the Association for Utah Community Health, Get Healthy Utah, the Utah Department of Health, the Utah Health Information Network (UHIN), the Governor's Office of Management and Budget, and Cambia Health Foundation.

Together, the organizations will collaborate to improve the health and wellbeing of communities, improve coordination across health systems, and reduce healthcare costs by addressing the upstream economic, education and social factors that impact people's health, according to the announcement.

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WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

This partnership, along with United Way of Salt Lake's Promise Partnership, plans to develop scalable programs for addressing the social determinants of health throughout Utah.

Now more than ever, the impacts of socioeconomic factors like poverty, physical environment, and race and ethnicity on people's health need to be considered when making public programs and policies, according to The Lancet.

It cites figures such as homeless families being at a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission because of crowded living spaces and scarce access to screening and testing facilities, and how in the U.S. COVID-19 infection rates are three times higher in predominantly Black counties than in predominantly white counties, while the mortality rate is six times higher.

Community health initiatives, such as one created by Kaiser Permanente, have been deemed successful in creating policy and environmental changes, as well as creating positive individual behavior change, according to a report from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

However, to be successful, the report notes that a "high dose" of initiatives matters in the success of an intervention. To achieve that, it recommends partnerships with key institutions in the area, organizational readiness and community engagement, and patience with the time required to create change.

THE LARGER TREND

This program builds on Intermountain's ongoing work in Ogden and St. George, where it created an alliance of city, county and state government agencies, and other community-based organizations to improve health by focusing on nonmedical factors.

Other healthcare organizations have recognized the need to address the social determinants of health and created programs of their own, including RWJBarnabas Health and Independence Blue Cross with Signify Health, which recently launched tech-enabled initiatives to connect people with nonmedical health services.

Intermountain also recently announced its intent to merge with Sanford Health. The two health systems plan to bring their organizations together under one system to expand access to value-based care.

ON THE RECORD

"Prior to the pandemic, we recognized that poor health outcomes are not merely the result of individuals' behaviors," said Marc Harrison, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. "They result from unrealized factors such as uneven economic opportunity or inequitable education and healthcare systems, and they create conditions that limit individuals' choices. COVID-19 has merely served as a spotlight on the need for more equitable solutions that address the social needs of individuals and communities at large."

Twitter: @HackettMallory
Email the writer: mhackett@himss.org