Op-ed: Hospitals and healthcare systems should tackle the social drivers of health | News

May 26, 2023 – Health care systems should use their resources to tackle a wide range of social factors that lead to health problems, instead of focusing only on medical interventions such as drugs and surgeries, according to an op-ed co-authored by Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

In a May 24 article published in Time, Williams and co-author Donald Berwick — a former administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and president emeritus of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement — noted that hospitals and health systems are spending most of their enormous wealth on medical interventions, even if they account for no more than 20% of health outcomes. Other factors that contribute to health – social drivers such as access to fresh food and clean air – are largely ignored in the pursuit of profit. “Billing for cancer treatments makes money,” the co-authors wrote. “Using institutional clout to demand sidewalks, parks and streetlights in poor communities doesn’t do that.”

Williams and Berwick highlighted examples of health care systems working to address social drivers of health, such as building affordable housing or launching food pharmacies that provide fresh produce to low-income communities. .

“Hospitals and health systems must mobilize to treat – and ultimately prevent – the diseases caused by poverty, inequality, racism and loneliness just as aggressively as they mobilize to attack cancer with drugs and drugs. sophisticated surgeries,” they wrote.

Read the Time editorial: America’s health care is broken. Large hospitals must be part of the solution

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