Cynthia Telles Reflects on “Social Needs in America” Survey by Kaiser Permanente

LOS ANGELES, CA / ACCESSWIRE / July 19, 2019 / A recent survey conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that while Americans view social needs, such as food access, housing and transportation, as equally important to their health as medical care, 68 percent of respondents reported that they have experienced at least one unmet social need in the past year. Even more alarming, more than a quarter of Americans surveyed said that an unmet social need has been a barrier to health, with 21 percent prioritizing paying for food or rent over seeing a doctor or getting medication.

The national survey sought to understand the obstacles Americans must overcome in meeting social needs, the impact of these unmet social needs on health care, and how medical professionals and providers can help patients better address all factors that impact health. This is a particularly urgent issue as the study also found that one-third of Americans are grappling with stress tied to meeting their basic human needs, such as stable housing, adequate food, and reliable transportation.

“Health is holistic and issues like housing and food insecurity, or even access to transportation, can have a grave impact on both personal and community wellbeing,” said Dr. Cynthia Telles, Chair of the Kaiser Permanente Community Health Committee. “It is paramount that we continue to understand and address the social needs that are hindering the health and progress of far too many Americans.”

The survey also revealed the important role health professionals and organizations have in finding solutions and providing support. With those experiencing unmet social needs being twice as likely to rate their health as fair or poor (16 percent) compared to those who did not (six percent), the vast majority of Americans want their doctors and nurses to ask about these social issues and needs. In fact, only 10 percent of respondents said these kinds of questions would make them nervous or annoyed, with a full 97 percent saying these questions should be part of medical appointments.

“When medical professionals enter into a dialogue about unmet social needs, they have the opportunity to become a bridge to services and solutions that can make a real difference in the patient’s life and health,” remarked Dr. Cynthia Telles.

Informed in part by the realities unveiled in the survey and driven by its commitment to lead at the forefront of addressing social needs for its members and the communities in which it operates, Kaiser Permanente recently announced the launch of the first location of its Thrive Local social needs resources network in its Northwest Region. Serving Oregon and southwest Washington state, this network will integrate with Kaiser Permanente’s electronic health records system to connect citizens with the resources required for them to achieve health and stability.

“Simply asking if you can afford your medicine, have you skipped a meal, or do you feel safe at home can be the beginning of addressing unmet needs for patients,” said Dr. Telles. “We have a responsibility and opportunity to connect people to the services that promote holistic health and through the Thrive Local social needs network, we are taking important steps to close the gaps that contribute to poor health outcomes for many hard working Americans.”

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SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente

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