The Biden-Harris administration is taking action to improve health and well-being by addressing the social determinants of health

The White House and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), are releasing several resources to help federal agencies, states, local and tribal governments better coordinate health care, public health and social services . Specifically, the White House publishes the first-ever Handbook for Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in US history. In support of this, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is publishing a call to action to address health-related social needs, as well as a Medicaid and CHIP health-related social needs framework. This builds on the administration’s work to advance health equity by recognizing that people’s social and economic conditions play an important role in their health and well-being.

Clearly, the health of our people does not exist in a vacuum, but is affected by our access to stable housing, healthy food and clean air to breathe, said HHS Secretary Xavier Bessera. It is critical for HHS to holistically address health care and public health by addressing the social conditions of patients. Today’s announcement will help ensure opportunities to improve equal access to health care for every American and make progress toward a health care system that improves health care outcomes for all Americans instead of a privileged few.

The social and economic conditions of the environment in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age affect a wide range of health, functioning and quality of life. Recognizing this, the first part of today’s announcement is America’s Handbook for Addressing the Social Determinants of Health. The handbook highlights ongoing and emerging actions that federal agencies are taking to support health by improving individuals’ social circumstances. This includes initiatives by HHS, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other federal agencies to match investments with community infrastructure funding, offer grants to empower communities to address social health-related needs and encourage the coordinated use of resources and data to improve health outcomes.

Another resource is the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Framework for Health-Related Social Needs (HRSN). This document will provide guidance for more states, in addition to the current seven, to structure programs that address housing and nutrition insecurity for enrollees in high-needs populations. An example is a program that provides medically adapted meals or helps homeless youth find and obtain housing. The guidance will also include an accompanying CMS Information Bulletin (CIB).

The final document is the HHS Call to Action to Address Social Health-Related Needs to foster cross-sector partnerships among those working in health, social services, public and environmental health, government, and health information technology to create stronger, more integrated health and a social protection system through joint decision-making and the use of community resources to address unmet social needs related to health. No one sector can do this work alone, so HHS is issuing a Call to Action to collaborate so that together we can achieve a future where everyone, regardless of social circumstances, has access to coordinated, high-quality, person-centered health and social care systems that can improve health and well-being. This call to action builds on the nationwide call to action in the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities and complements the work of the Biden-Harris administration to implement the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.

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