How the Health Care Industry is Investing in Patients' Social Needs

Research in the February 2020 edition of Health Affairs examines health systems' efforts to address social determinants of health.

For people across the country, a home is more than a place to sleep at night. Access to safe, stable housing affects everything from a person’s access to education and healthy food, to exposure to harmful toxins and air pollution.

Over the past decade, stakeholders across industries have been crafting and implementing solutions that address health care coverage, housing stability and other social determinants of health. These include the social, economic and environmental factors that shape one’s health. But, there has been little clarity on how and if health systems—including hospitals—are directly investing in community programs to address social determinants of health as opposed to screenings and referrals.

An RWJF-funded analysis from Leora I. Horwitz et al. in the February 2020 edition of Health Affairs found that from 2017 to 2019, U.S. health systems have invested at least $2.5 billion in programs addressing social determinants of health, of which $1.6 billion across fifty-two programs was specifically committed to housing-focused interventions. Other focus areas included employment, education, food security, social and community context, and transportation.

Health systems are making sizable investments in social determinants of health. But, this is a small figure compared to health systems’ overall community benefit spending, which averages $60 billion annually.

How the Industry is Addressing Other Social Determinants of Health

Other studies in the February 2020 edition of Health Affairs that explore how health care systems are addressing patients’ needs related to housing and other social determinants of health include:

Media Contacts

Jordan Reese

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-6322