In the continued interest of improving community health, clinicians can help promote community investment by collecting data to support effective partnerships that address the root causes of ill health, according to recent findings published in AMA Journal of Ethics.

In this article, researchers analyzed the social determinants of health and community investment, how community investment can make for improvements in community health, and the ways in which clinicians may be able to help to catalyze community investment.

Social determinants of health including social, economic, and environmental factors can impact the health and longevity of patients. Clinicians are in the unique position to see firsthand the higher incidence of chronic disease and lower life expectancies among people who live in neighborhoods with poor housing, unsafe conditions, a lack of green spaces and recreational opportunities, and insufficient healthy food options. The success in providing even the highest quality medical care may be limited by these factors once patients leave the healthcare setting. Community investment stakeholders and medical professionals share a common goal to promote good health but have traditionally labored side-by-side rather than together.

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Clinicians are valuable voices to and for patients, institutions, and communities, given their daily experience of interacting with patients and their credibility as health experts. In addition, their positions enable them to have access to data that provides the rationale for community investment.

Clinicians can treat not only symptoms but also the underlying causes of poor health by asking questions about a patient’s home and work environments. Similarly, clinicians can guide their own institutions to higher levels of impact by asking questions of hospital leadership. They can help make the case for neighborhood revitalization projects that strengthen health outcomes by encouraging their hospitals to endorse or support advocacy efforts. Clinicians can help create demand for interventions that address underlying causes of health problems by asking administrators in finance and in community and government relations departments what their institutions are doing to meet their community benefit obligations.

Researchers concluded that clinicians can advance policy and system changes by leveraging data to raise more awareness of community health needs.

Reference

Hacke R, Gaskins A. How can clinicians catalyze investments to improve community health? AMA J Ethics. 2019;21(3):E262-268.