New Research Shows Value in Addressing Social Determinants of Health through Peer Support

A growing body of evidence finds that long before we need medical care, health begins in our homes, our schools and our neighborhoods.

In fact, it’s estimated that medical care accounts for only 10 to 20 percent of health outcomes. The rest can be attributed to social factors, or “social determinants of health,” like where you live, what you eat, how secure you feel and how connected you are to those around you.

Addressing Social Determinants of Health

In 2014, in an effort to help address social determinants of health, lower costs and improve health outcomes among its members and local communities, WellCare launched a nationwide, toll-free Community Assistance Line to connect callers to services which can have the greatest impact on health, such as food, housing, transportation and more.

The line is supported by more than 50 Community Liaisons—peer support specialists who use their own personal experiences with the social service system and a database of more than 160,000 community resources to connect callers to relevant social services and programs.

Study Examines the Value of WellCare’s Call Line, Community Liaisons

A new study conducted by WellCare and the University of South Florida College of Public Health and published in The American Journal of Accountable Care® examines WellCare’s Community Assistance Line and how Liaisons can effectively use their own personal experiences to provide social support and empathy to callers who are experiencing stressful life circumstances.

During the year-long study, nearly 11,800 callers contacted the assistance line resulting in more than 34,000 referrals to social supports. Among the most requested areas of assistance were:

  • Patient and family support, including medical expenses, elderly care and daycare assistance (25 percent);
  • Transportation to and from doctor visits (20 percent); and,
  • Housing (18 percent).

Through interviews, Liaisons shared that in all instances an adverse circumstance triggered a caller to contact the assistance line. And while Liaisons shared their main goal was to provide informational support to callers, more than 50 percent of Liaisons stated they provided emotional support conveyed through empathy, love, trust and caring. In fact, several respondents acknowledged callers’ emotional needs must be met before providing informational support.

Meet Mara – A WellCare Community Liaison

Mara Toman Collage
Mara is a Community Liaison who uses sign language and video relay to assist callers via WellCare’s Community Assistance Line.

Mara was born deaf, and after high school, moved to Washington, D.C. to attend Gallaudet University. After meeting her husband at Gallaudet, the couple raised two hearing children. As a child, Mara never thought she’d be able to use a telephone, but thanks to evolving technology, including a TTY line and video relay services, today Mara makes follow up calls to those who have used the Community Assistance Line to ensure they are receiving the care and services they need.

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To read WellCare and USF’s full study, visit the American Journal of Accountable Care

If you are in need of assistance, there is help. Both WellCare members and non-members in need of support can call the Community Assistance Line at 1-866-775-2192 or via video relay 1-855-628-7552. The line is open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time).

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