News Release: Woodruff Health Sciences

Mar. 16,  2010

Blue Ridge Group Report: Social Determinants of Health Key to Improving U.S. Health

News Article ImageFred Sanfilippo, MD, PhD, executive vice president for health affairs, Emory University. Sanfillipo and and Don E. Detmer, MD, MA, professor of medical education, University of Virginia, are Blue Ridge Group co-chairs and report authors.

In a new report by the Blue Ridge Academic Health Group (Blue Ridge Group) says the importance of social determinants of health should be addressed in concert with health care reform in order to improve U.S. health overall. The report explores the role of academic health centers in addressing these social factors that affect health.

The 2010 report, titled "The Role of Academic Health Centers in Addressing the Social Determinants of Health," calls for research examining which models of health promotion and health care delivery best improve the health of individuals affected by these social factors. It was prepared by some of the most influential leaders in academic medicine (www.blueridgegroup.org).

The Blue Ridge Group studies and reports on issues of fundamental importance to improving our health care system and enhancing the ability of the academic health center to sustain optimal progress in health and health care through sound research - both basic and applied - and health professional education.

Blue Ridge Group co-chairs and report authors are Fred Sanfilippo, MD, PhD, executive vice president for health affairs, Emory University, and Don E. Detmer, MD, MA, professor of medical education, University of Virginia.

"The report features several recommendations on what academic health centers and others can and should be doing to improve the health of individuals affected by these social factors," says Sanfilippo. "Working to address the social determinants of health, especially before people get sick and seek care, will not only lead to more positive outcomes, but also should be more cost-effective and beneficial to the economy."

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Each U.S. academic health center should define and commit to a strategy to address the social determinants of health in its own local com¬munity and region.
  • The Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of Academic Health Centers, and the University HealthSystem Consortium are urged to convene a stakeholders group to develop a national matrix model for com¬munity effort and benefit reporting, and engage government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health.
  • Professional certification and accreditation organizations are called upon to address com¬petency in the social determinants of health for medical professional certification and training programs.
  • The Institute of Medicine is urged to identify best practices that focus on the social determinants of health and assess impact.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as well as nongovernmental organizations are urged to develop a national research agenda with committed funding for social determinants of health.
  • Congress is encouraged to enact legislation to support innovative programs and demonstration projects that address the social determi¬nants of health such as the Health Innovation Zone program.

Detmer says, "There are a variety of good reasons why society should address all of the social determinants of health. First, addressing these issues in a forthright manner is a sign of being a civil nation. It also makes sound economic, as well as social, sense.

The social determinants of health, if addressed in the population, will not only improve health, but will also improve the nation's competitiveness in the world market."

The newest report is the 14th of the Blue Ridge Group since it began issuing reports in 1998. For more information about the Blue Ridge Group or to obtain copies of any of the 14 reports, visit www.blueridgegroup.org or http://whsc.emory.edu/blueridge/reports.cfm.

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Blog: http://emoryhealthblog.com
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci
Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

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