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Federal Initiative Seeks to Coordinate and Leverage Resources to Address Social Determinants of Health

August 05, 2019

Pennsylvania Congressmen Mike Doyle (D, PA-18) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R, PA-01) have sponsored legislation aimed at improving health outcomes for people participating in the Medicaid program.  

H.R. 4004, the Social Determinants Accelerator Act of 2019, would strengthen coordination between local, state, and federal government agencies and other stakeholders to address social determinants of health. Those social determinants include stable housing, reliable transportation, and access to healthy foods, which have a direct impact on health and wellness.

The bipartisan bill would support states and communities in improving the coordination of health and non-health services and leverage existing resources in order to improve outcomes and advance cost-effective approaches to better health.

The legislation would provide up to $25 million in grants to state and local governments to develop “Social Determinants Accelerator Plans.” Such plans would target a group of high-need Medicaid patients, identify the outcomes to be achieved through cross-sector coordination as well as evidence-based interventions, and include a plan for linking data across programs.

Additionally, the bill would call for the creation of an inter-agency technical advisory council on social determinants of health, made up of program experts from the federal, state, and local government, the private sector, and community-based organizations. The council would provide technical assistance to the grant recipients and share best practices in cross-program coordination.

This federal initiative could present an opportunity to support work underway in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services has identified addressing social determinants of health through the Medicaid program as a key priority. Pennsylvania hospitals are investing in initiatives to meet the health needs of their communities, including through interventions that address food insecurity, housing instability, workforce training, and transportation.

In a press release announcing support for the legislation, the American Hospital Association (AHA) stated: “Hospitals and health systems recognize that addressing social determinants of health is central to driving value and advancing overall well-being. We look forward to working with Congress in our efforts to keep our communities healthy.”

Additional information about the bill is available in a one-page overview and section-by-section analysis.

At the direction of HAP’s Board of Directors, the association has initiated a statewide effort to support Pennsylvania hospitals in identifying strategies to address the economic and social conditions that impact health. During April, HAP convened health care and community stakeholders for an in-person meeting to review innovative and effective programs that are making an impact in addressing housing and food security. HAP’s 2019 Leadership Summit featured a half-day preconference workshop focused on social determinants of health, highlighting the changing role of hospitals and health systems to promote health equity. 

For additional information about HAP’s work on social determinants of health, or to become involved in population health initiatives, please contact Robert Shipp, HAP’s vice president, quality and population health. Questions pertaining to federal legislative initiatives may be directed to Laura Stevens Kent, HAPs vice president, federal advocacy.

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