Why Healthy Individuals, Families, and Communities Matter
For all of us, health and well-being are key factors to living well and having a good quality of life. Where we are born, the quality of our schools, the safety of our communities, the availability of jobs, and the level of stress on ourselves, our families, and our colleagues are among the many external factors that impact our health from a young age through adulthood and beyond. Understanding how these social determinants affect our health and well-being, and connecting them to helpful supports along the way, are key to ensuring that each of us can achieve our full potential.
A growing body of evidence shows that improved care and service coordination across multiple sectors beyond traditional clinical health care services – doctors, hospitals, laboratories – together with timely access to critical population-based health information and leveraging existing public investments more effectively, can produce healthier and dramatically better and more sustainable outcomes for all families and communities. Human service programs already in place are uniquely positioned to provide valuable contributions to improving overall health outcomes if they are effectively linked to, and integrated with, the traditional health system.
Research has shown that health care alone contributes only 10 to 25 percent to improving health status over time. What we do to support good health, such as healthy eating and exercise, and the social and economic environment that are around us such as good jobs, quality child care, and a safe place to live, impact our health outcomes even more than medical care. Recent research also indicates an association between higher level of investment in social services and improved health outcomes.
With the assistance of our members and partners throughout the country, the American Public Human Services Association is helping to lead the way on such multi-disciplinary and population-based care approaches through its National Collaborative for Integration of Health and Human Services.
Today’s Health and Human Services Systems of Care
Health and human service agencies at all levels of government are building new connections to better ensure programs, data, providers and funding channels are in place to address the social determinants of health. State and local agencies are making important advancements nationally to improve their operational efficiencies and program effectiveness by using the National Collaborative’s Business and H/HS Maturity models, in conjunction with Harvard University’s Human Services Value Curve, as a common blueprint and benchmark to implement these paradigm and operational shifts.
The Benefits of Multi-Program Collaboration
Human services and its companion sectors are uniquely positioned to design new initiatives that can significantly support better health and stronger individuals, families, and communities. Human service resources already strategically located throughout communities across the country can play a major role in prevention to mitigate serious downstream health issues like pneumonia or diabetes. Examples include providing energy assistance to families to keep their heat on throughout the winter or providing nutrition assistance that encourages healthy food habits – relatively “light-touch” supports that reduce the need for costly acute and longer-term medical interventions that would otherwise be needed.
Mushrooming health care costs, the need to more effectively leverage existing but not currently well- coordinated public investments, and a rapidly growing appreciation of the value that locally based human service assets can bring to a collaborative effort to support population health by addressing the social determinants of health, are key drivers in addressing this topic. Improved outcomes, lower costs, and a healthier society as a whole will be the tangible results of these efforts through effectively linking and supporting integration of operations, funding, design, and delivery of care.
In the years ahead, the National Collaborative’s contribution to this effort will be to focus on the following steps:
 The Institute for Alternative Futures indicates that health behaviors (30-40 percent), social and economic factors (15-40 percent), and physical environmental factors (5-10 percent) all have important roles to play in improving health outcomes. Institute for Alternative Futures. Community Health Centers Leveraging the Social Determinants of Health, 2012. Available at http://www.altfutures.org/leveragingSDH (Accessed June 25, 2014).
Elizabeth H. Bradley, Maureen Canavan, Erika Rogan, Kristina Talbert-Slagle, Chima Ndumele, Lauren Taylor, and Leslie A. Curry. “Variation in Health Outcomes: The Role of Spending on Social Services, Public Health, and Health Care, 2000-09.” Health Affairs 35, No.5 (2016):760-768; doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0814.
 Antonio M. Oftelie. The Pursuit of Outcomes: Leadership Lessons and Insights on Transforming Human Services, A Report from the 2011 Human Services Summit on the Campus of Harvard University. Leadership for a Networked World, 2011. http://lnwprogram.org/sites/default/files/The_Pursuit_of_Outcomes.pdf
Last Updated: 7/17/2017