By Rhonda Mims
Social determinants of health (SDOH) – the conditions in which we live, learn, work and play – can explain, in large part, why some Americans are healthier than others.
That’s why at WellCare, we go beyond healthcare, helping our members manage the many challenges of daily life.
Through our Community Connections program, we help connect our members and non- members, to needed resources – from food and housing to transportation and child care – all in an effort to eliminate barriers to care and pave a path toward better health and independence.
Through our work, we have gained a great deal of insights into the specific needs of our members and our local communities. For example, in a recent study, WellCare reviewed more than 106,000 social service referrals made through our Community Connections program and help line, a toll-free line open to the general public that refers individuals and caregivers in need to a database of more than 300,000 social services in local communities across the country.
In the first half of 2019, we found the top-requested referrals were made for family support services (20%), such as prenatal and parenting education, child care, and child welfare-related services, followed by food access (16%), transportation (16%), utilities assistance (11%), medication assistance (7%) and housing (6%).
WellCare’s analysis also reveals the association between those in need of social services and rates of chronic disease. Those referred to social services were managing nearly four chronic conditions – more than twice the rate of individuals who do not require social services.
What’s important about this data is that it tells us which needs are greatest among our members and other vulnerable populations and how those needs are changing over time, informing our work and the broader research community to help improve overall health and well-being.
For example, a study recently published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Managed Care, which examined nearly 20,000 calls to our help line, revealed individuals with social needs were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge.
At WellCare, we understand the obstacles and pressures many individuals and families are facing across the country. Ultimately, understanding what happens outside of the doctor’s office is key to ensuring the right services and infrastructure are in place to help individuals live better, healthier lives.
Rhonda Mims is WellCare’s executive vice president and chief public affairs officer.