Workforce Health + Benefits

Addressing and Responding to Social Determinants of Health

By Jim Pshock, Founder & CEO of Bravo

I recently attended the Population Health Alliance (PHA) Innovation Summit and Capital Caucus, subtitled “Improving Health Through Financial Security: The Common Denominator Across Social Determinants of Populations.” I’ve been honored to be a member of the PHA board for three years now and have found the organization to be a small but mighty force in the quest for population health. If you’re not familiar with PHA, I strongly encourage you to check out

Achieving Value Targets by Addressing Social Determinants of Health

As the 2019 theme suggests, one of the primary areas of focus that comprehensive programs must address is financial security and other social issues. While these concerns are not new, PHA Chair, Rose Maljanian, shared that the recent surge in interest among providers and payers is fueled mainly by fundamental changes in reimbursement models linked to value-based designs, HEDIS scores and similar initiatives.

Although many have preached about caring for the total person, it’s clear that our old payment system promoted over-utilization of covered services and paid very little attention to non-reimbursable factors.

As we shift the incentive away from fee-for-service to “bonus for quality,” we finally see more attention to essential elements of care such as transportation needs, lack of food, loneliness and financial security. If you ever doubted the power of financial incentives, look at how the use of these incentives is completely transforming the level of care provided now that things like hospital readmissions and infections result in pay cuts instead of extra revenue!

Responding to the Social Determinants of Health

One presenter, Marcella Wilson, Ph.D., shared exciting results from the Transition to Success program in Memphis, TN. This duplicatable model shows how health care and community services can be combined and organized in a way that addresses the social limitations of those living in poverty. And if you think the poor are the unemployed, think again. The working poor often have greater needs because they don’t qualify for many of the free services available to others. Health plans that leverage a similar approach as the Transition to Success program can have an astounding impact.

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Wellness Success Stories

We also heard from Senator Mike Braun from Indiana. How exciting to have Senator Braun share about the importance of employee wellness programs and the use of substantial incentives. He experienced it first hand at his company in Indiana, where he not only slowed the health cost trend, he eliminated it. It’s so encouraging to have more people in DC who understand the value of engaging individuals in their health rather than fueling the myth that there’s nothing to be done except focusing on discounted services.

Many other terrific speakers, including presenters from Pitney Bowes, Walmart and Comcast, shared incredible success stories highlighting innovation, creativity and impacts that prove that together, we can change lives and control costs.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy and inexpensive way to reverse decades of individuals’ bad habits and inefficiencies, you’ll probably be disappointed. If, however, you commit to analyzing your data and continually fine-tuning your programs to find the right blend of communications, interventions and incentives, you too can have a profound impact.

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