Addressing Tennessee’s Social Determinants of Health

For many people living in Tennessee, achieving and maintaining a high quality of health is much more complicated than just regular doctor visits. Thousands of the state’s residents find their path to care interrupted by more basic needs, like having a reliable means of transportation to visit the doctor’s office in the first place. This situation can limit access to important preventative care and creates obstacles for ongoing care that’s needed to treat chronic conditions and behavioral health challenges.

The impact of social determinants on individual health can’t be overstated. Tennessee already ranks 44 out of all 50 states for overall health, and many of our 474,000 members are among the state’s most vulnerable individuals. While social factors add complexity to how and where these individuals are able to receive care, our data shows that community resources are the gateway to improving individual well-being and overall health outcomes. We know that integrating and aligning care solutions with community-based partners and providers, beyond just medical care, has the potential to improve the health of our families and communities. That’s why we’ve launched several promising community-based initiatives to address these social factors in innovative ways.

Affordable housing and food security are two areas where our investments are demonstrating real and measurable progress in this effort. In the area of housing, we’re focused on reaching some of Tennessee’s largest and most at-risk population areas by helping maintain existing housing options and developing programs that guide and connect low-income consumers through housing options. Since 2013, UnitedHealth Group has provided $7.7 million in affordable housing investments in Clarksville alone.

Meanwhile, in Memphis, we’ve committed to Empowering Health with over $1 million in funding for multiple nonprofits that are working to address social determinants of health. The funds will help repair two different housing units, helping reinforce MSFI’s goal of ensuring permanent, stable housing for Tennessee families. We also awarded a $20,000 grant to Community Alliance for the Homeless’ Memphis Strong Families program, which provides supportive housing for low income families.

In addition to our work in Memphis, we’ve also made Nashville one of the pilot markets for our exciting new Housing + Health Program, which aims to provide housing and supportive services to homeless individuals living with complex health needs. By partnering with community-based organizations to coordinate care and living arrangements, we’re working to transform the lives of the most vulnerable and underserved individuals in Nashville, while also lowering the overall cost of health care services.

At the same time, the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee has endeavored to tackle food insecurity by providing more than $400,000 to local food banks. In 2018, our food collection efforts brought in more than 1.8 million pounds of food through 365 food bank events. Through health fairs throughout the state, we created important touchpoint events for attendees to undergo health screenings and receive education and training to improve their well-being.

We’re making successful inroads to improving overall community health because we’re acutely focused on identifying, understanding and addressing members’ underlying social needs, in addition to our role in promoting wellness and supporting those with illnesses. Improving upon these social barriers is a long journey that will take work and collaboration with our state, local and community-based partners. However, it continues to one of our most promising options for improving the health system for all Tennesseans. To learn more about our efforts in the state, visit https://www.uhccommunityandstate.com/TN.

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