Eskenazi Health has an extensive record of offering programs that focus on improving social determinants of health, defined by the World Health Organization as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life”.
Social determinants are non-medical factors that may greatly impact a person’s health such as quality of education, income level, safe housing, transportation and neighborhoods; racism, discrimination and violence; access to nutritious foods and physical activity opportunities; quality of air and water; and language and literacy skills.
Eskenazi Health initiatives that combat social determinants of health include food as medicine, mental wellness, healthy lifestyles, transportation and connectivity, housing, safe living environments and economic opportunities.
Individuals from poorer social or economic circumstances are generally at greater risk of inferior health, have higher rates of illness, disability and death, and live shorter lives than those who are more advantaged. For more than 160 years, Eskenazi Health has continued to find and support new ways to address social determinants of health affecting the patients and communities it serves. In keeping with Eskenazi Health’s dedication to its patients, the community health worker role was created. Community health workers have become a very useful resource; specifically for individuals with little to no social support, homebound patients and the elderly.
Eskenazi Health community health workers meet one-on-one with patients at designated Eskenazi Health Center locations and patient homes to enhance an individual’s understanding and adherence to treatment protocols, identify potential social determinants of health and help patients set and achieve their self-management goals.
During their time with patients, Eskenazi Health community health workers conduct welfare or safety checks, distribute medical supplies, assist with blood pressure or blood sugar checks, support social and emotional needs, help patients get back on track with the correct medication under the guidance of health care providers, provide resources and solutions by recommending and enrolling patients in available programs and educate patients on COVID-19 vaccines.
Playing a vital role in bridging the gap between patients and their health care providers is one of the major roles of Eskenazi Health community health care workers, who strive to create and maintain positive relationships while becoming a valued resource for health care education. Through focusing on social determinants of health for patients Eskenazi Health serves, the goal is for those individuals to live healthier and longer lives.
With recent funding from Direct Relief, a California-based humanitarian organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other groups, Eskenazi Health has doubled the community health worker staff in its primary care health system and created a specialized internal training onboarding process.
For more information about available programs offered at Eskenazi Health and throughout the community, please visit: www.eskenazihealth.edu/patients/neighborhood-resources.
Broderick Rhyant, M.D.
Chief physician executive with Eskenazi Health Center Forest Manor