Addressing social determinants of health
Research has established that at least 80 percent of health is the result of things that happen beyond the doctor’s office: nutrition, housing, education, transportation and living conditions, also known as social determinants of health (SDoH). These factors are particularly crucial for more than 40 million children enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) across the U.S.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) manages vital state-federal partnerships and has the power to unlock even greater potential to improve the health of children. In recent years, Nemours Children’s has become a leading advocate for policies that help clarify how states can most effectively address the health and social needs of this pediatric population.
On June 24, 2021, Dr. Kara Odom Walker, MD, Executive Vice President, Chief Population Health Officer, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health about the importance of legislation to address SDoH and maternal health, including H.R. 3894, a bi-partisan bill co-authored by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-At Large) and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FLA-12).
The CARING for Social Determinants of Health Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of 2021, would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to update guidance and provide examples of strategies that states can implement to address SDoH in the provision of health care. Notably, this legislation requires that the updated guidance include strategies targeting children covered by Medicaid and CHIP.
This bill ensures that as new bright spots and best practices emerge, they are disseminated to each state to share what works quickly and efficiently.
Kara Odom Walker, MD, MPH, MSHS
Executive Vice President, Chief Population Health Officer
Dr. Walker leads our National Office of Policy & Prevention, Value-Based Services Organization and Office of Health Equity and Inclusion and all aspects of population health strategy, research and innovation. In testifying before Congress in June 2021, Dr. Walker noted, “If effectively implemented and designed in consultation with those they intend to serve, numerous policy approaches starting during pre-conception, continuing through childbirth, into the early years and through adolescence can substantially reduce disparities among underserved populations.”