Nonmedical Factors Can Significantly Impact Your Health

By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - December 07, 2023

It is more than just your physical health and medical treatment impacting your well-being. There are a whole host of nonmedical factors, referred to as social determinants of health, that can shape the effectiveness of health care interventions and influence one’s medical outcomes and overall health. For instance, individuals with limited access to quality education may face challenges in understanding health information, making informed decisions and engaging effectively with health care providers. Socioeconomic factors, such as income and employment opportunities, can impact access to health care services, preventive measures, and the ability to afford medications or food, leading to disparities in health outcomes.

Addressing social determinants of health is essential for creating equitable and sustainable improvements in public health. Moffitt Cancer Center has been assessing social determinants of health and health related social needs for several years. As a next step, teams across Moffitt are working together to create a comprehensive and multifaceted approach to health care that begins at patient registration and continues throughout the care journey. Patients will be asked a series of questions during registration and periodically thereafter that cover issues such as transportation and assistance during treatment, insurance and financial issues, and access to housing and nutritious food.

photo of Dr. Susan Vadaparampil at a podium
Dr. Susan Vadaparampil presents how Moffitt is assessing and addressing social determinants of health during a special session at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

“Our goal is to better understand our patients’ needs so that we can help. Moffitt has been asking its patients about their social determinants of health since 2006. Similar to other centers across the U.S., the data consistently shows that both Black and Hispanic patients report more of the social determinants of health that may ultimately impact their cancer care and outcomes. Knowing this allows us to develop targeted strategies to address the issues they are facing,” said Dr. Susan Vadaparampil, associate center director of Community Outreach, Engagement & Equity at Moffitt.

Vadaparampil and several other researchers spoke on this topic during a special social determinants of health session at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. The goal was to educate oncology health care providers on the invisible needs their patients may have because they are not always discussed during a medical visit. The presenters emphasized that it takes a team effort to address these issues.

“At Moffitt, we want to make sure that we systematically ask our patients about health-related social needs and work with teams across the center to ensure that we have workflows and processes to assist patients. But we must also partner with other health care organizations, policymakers on the state and federal levels, payers and our community partners to find innovative solutions to meet our patients’ needs,” Vadaparampil said. “Ultimately, a collaborative effort is needed to ensure that health care is not only focused on treating illness but also addressing the underlying social factors that significantly impact patient outcomes.”

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Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC Senior PR Account Coordinator 813-456-3342 More Articles


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