Population Health News featured Dr. Richard Seidman, L.A. Care's Chief Medical Officer, in the Thought Leaders' Corner of their May 2018 subscription newsletter. Each month, Population Health News asks a panel of industry experts to discuss a topic suggested by a subscriber. Seidman's topic was "What are some ways to address the social determinants of health?"
In the piece, Seidman talks about how more and more health care organizations have begun to address social determinants of health. In fact, a 2018 survey found that 80 percent of health payers are doing so. With L.A. Care's member population numbering more than two million — almost all of whom are low-income — he says that the only way to move the needle on health outcomes is to also address the social factors that influence health.
As a public health plan, we will continue to leverage our resources to address the social issues that ultimately impact our members’ health, as lack of adequate housing and food-insecurity appear to be worsening. Despite previous efforts we are clearly not doing enough to address social determinants of health, so the health care industry must continue to step up.
--Richard Seidman, MD, MPH
Chief Medical Officer, L.A. Care
Seidman shared some of the ways L.A. Care is addressing the social determinants of health:
This is one of the biggest social determinants requiring attention across the country. In L.A. County, the latest count put the number of people experiencing homelessness at nearly 58,000. Studies have shown that homeless individuals are much more likely to suffer from acute or chronic illnesses compared to those who are housed. L.A. Care has committed $20 million over five years to Brilliant Corners, a housing agency working with Los Angeles County’s Housing for Health program.
L.A. Care has addressed food insecurity by awarding $1.3 million over the past two years to community organizations that provide meal delivery to the elderly, or help low-income individuals enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is known as CalFresh in California, to address an ongoing challenge of increasing participation in a program with historically low participation rates. We also are part of a pilot program that is providing home delivery of free medically-tailored meals for those with chronic conditions.
L.A. Care has opened five Family Resource Centers across L.A. County, with plans for a total of 13. The centers provide a wide variety of programming for both members and the general public that address social determinants of health. Fitness classes are quite popular, providing the community with access to a safe space for exercise. Frequently, Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) staff are on site to help community members enroll in benefits for which they qualify, including CalFresh or CalWorks. Our FRCs also offer parenting classes and reading time for young children to encourage healthy child development and school readiness.
About L.A. Care Health Plan
L.A. Care Health Plan is a public entity and community-accountable health plan serving residents of Los Angeles County through a variety of health coverage programs including L.A. Care Covered™, Medi-Cal, L.A. Care Cal MediConnect Plan and PASC-SEIU Homecare Workers Health Care Plan. L.A. Care is a leader in developing new programs through innovative partnerships designed to provide health coverage to vulnerable populations and to support the safety net. With more than 2 million members, L.A. Care is the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan.