Social determinants of health. As a physician am I asking the right questions?

img_2255Social determinants of health.  As a physician, am I asking the right questions?  I recently went to a conference given by Aaron Dieringer MD who is also a Masters in Public Health candidate.  He showcased the ways that I can be aware of environmental differences in patient’s lives.  These issues need to be addressed differently than I have been doing before.

Examples of issues that are biased// juxtaposed to more appropriate questions…

  • “Do not take this medication on an empty stomach.”  //What if the patient does not have access to food regularly (or even daily)?
  • “Go outside to walk every day for exercise.”  //Do you have a safe nearby area to walk?
  • “Come back in the office in 4 weeks.”  //Is there a time or date that works best for your next appointment to help with transportation issues?
  • “See the specialist that I am sending you to.” //If you are unable to get to the specialist’s office due to transportation issues (not on a bus route) let the social worker in my office know and we will work with you to get this fixed.

How to help?

  • Consider immediate postpartum placement of long-acting reversible contraception.  50% of pregnancies are unintended.  The risks unintended pregnancies are that the patient may not be taking a prenatal vitamin or may be using alcohol or drugs.
  • Centering pregnancy.  This is a group prenatal visit.  The first few minutes are one-on-one with a physician and then the rest of the hour is a group learning session about a pregnancy issue.  This form of prenatal visits has decreased the disparity in pregnancy outcomes.
  • Student Outreach Clinic.  The University of Nevada Reno has a free medical clinic available to the local underserved population.  One patient example given was a woman seen for asthma exacerbation who needs steroids to avoid worsening in her condition, necessitating an ER visit or a hospitalization.  One question to ask of all patients is  “If I prescribe you medication on the $4 Wal-Mart list, can you afford this?”  Some patients cannot afford this and there are social work workarounds…  Up to 60% of preventable mortality is attributable to social and economic circumstances. Want to know more about our UNR SOC?
  • Project Upstream is a program which accompanies the UNR Student Outreach Clinic.  These Project Upstream volunteers help address the social determinants of health that may affect their treatment (transportation, $4 medications) so that the physician’s advice has a better chance to be adhered to with more optimal care outcomes.

I hope this helps.

About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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