making connections for improved health
innovative social needs intervention at Dayton Children’s Hospital connects patients to community resources
When a family brings their child to the pediatrician, they may be concerned about a broken arm or a sore throat. But they are often facing other challenges in their lives – lack of food, a job or ways to pay their bills – which also impact their health.
Research shows that when basic social needs are not met, families can’t focus on health issues. Multiple studies reveal that only 20 percent of a positive health outcome is attributed to medical care, while 20 percent can be linked to genetics. The biggest portion, 60 percent, is based on social, environmental and behavioral factors.
To address these issues, Dayton Children’s Hospital Center for Child Health and Wellness launched a program called the Family Resource Connection to screen patient families for unmet social needs – like food, housing and transportation – and connect them with community resources.
“As healthcare evolves, we need to recognize the non-medical causes of poor health, such as access to food, job skills and training, healthy housing and poverty,” says Deborah Feldman, president and CEO of Dayton Children’s Hospital. “If we can ensure families have access to the appropriate community resources, the likelihood that they will need the health care system for preventable illness and injury will decrease.”
The Family Resource Connection program screens families for social needs during well-child visits in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s. Student workers, called advocates, then reach out to families in need and connect them to community resources. In the pilot of the program during July, the most common needs identified included out-of-school resources for children, food, school supplies and baby supplies.
“The open and trusting relationship between a physician and patient offers the unique opportunity to ask often difficult questions about social needs,” says Jessica Saunders, director of the Center for Child Health and Wellness.
The Family Resource Connection was developed in partnership with Health Leads, a non-profit organization that’s helped health systems and clinics address patients’ unmet social needs for 20 years. With Health Leads tools, training and consulting, the staff in the Center for Child Health and Wellness were able to leverage well-established best practices and tailor its program to the meet the needs of its local patients and clinical workflows.
“With the launch of the Family Resource Connection, Dayton Children’s joins a growing and courageous group of leading-edge, forward-thinking hospitals and health systems across the country who are assuming a clear role and responsibility in addressing patients’ unmet social needs,” said Rebecca Onie, Health Leads CEO and co-founder. “In just a short period of time, Dayton has become a critical partner in our mission to make social needs interventions a standard of quality care.”
Currently the Family Resource Connection has a staff of more than a dozen student advocates from five area universities, pursuing degrees in medicine, social work and similar areas. A social worker serves as coordinator.
“In today's complex health care environment, training the next generation to understand how social needs and health outcomes are connected is imperative,” says Dr. John Duby, chair of the department of pediatrics at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.
“The Family Resource Connection has challenged the way that I view healthcare,” says Julia Russell, student advocate and pre-medicine major at the University of Dayton. “The program has raised my awareness of the undeniable effects of social determinants of health, and I hope to continue as a champion of this shift in medical culture in my future as a physician.”
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