A community-focused approach to addressing Social Drivers of Health

Social drivers of health (SDOH) are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play and age that impact health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.

SDOH also contribute to wide health disparities and inequities. For example, people who don't live near or have access to grocery stores with fresh, whole foods are less likely to have good nutrition. That raises their risk of health conditions like hypertension, diabetes and obesity compared to people who do have access to healthy foods.

There has been growing recognition within the healthcare field to address factors of health outside of the doctor's office. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, medical care only makes up 20% of our health influences. The other 80% consists of external social and economic factors such as where we live, education, employment and even our race.

According to Michael Minor, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Georgia, identifying the right community partners is the first step toward bettering health equity in Georgia.

“Community involvement plays a vital role in addressing health inequity. Community-based organizations have an intimate understanding of their community's unique needs and challenges and have closer relationships with the families and individuals within it,” said Minor. “Utilizing the expertise of community leaders on the ground is vital to appropriately address the needs of local communities.”

UnitedHealthcare is proud to partner with nonprofits in Georgia focused on bettering the health of every Georgian. This August, six Georgia nonprofits received a total of $1 million in grants as part of UnitedHealthcare’s Empowering Health program. The program represents the company's commitment to addressing health inequity and supports initiatives across the country to expand access to healthcare services and address SDOH.

The selected organizations were:

  • Voices for Georgia's Children, statewide – $300,000 to expand the Free Your Feels mental health awareness campaign for children, teens and young adults, and pilot health managers in early care and education programs.
  • Open Hand Atlanta/Barnes Healthcare, South Georgia – $220,000 to expand Cooking Matters for Healthcare Providers, providing medically tailored meals and nutrition intervention for at-risk individuals; and the Community Health Worker program, serving underserved and uninsured individuals with healthy lifestyle intervention and connections to social determinant of health resources.
  • Pace Center for Girls, Macon – $160,000 to expand Reach Program Services, providing mental and behavioral health counseling to girls ages 11-17 and their families.
  • Sowega Council on Aging, South Georgia – $150,000 to deploy social isolation solutions through the Senior Center Without Walls program. 
  • Partnership for Southern Equity, statewide – $95,000 to support the Just Health Academy by providing health equity trainings to health organizations and personnel and technical assistance to implement embedded health equity practices.
  • Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta – $75,000 to address social isolation of older adults living in affordable housing by providing socialization activities and behavioral health coaching.

Support through the Empowering Health grants will allow these organizations to continue their work at the community level and, in doing so, improve the health outcomes of Georgian across the state, whether it's through mental health education, nutritious food or health resources. 

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