August 17, 2023

LAWT News Service


Having enough food to eat, money to pay the bills, and a safe place to call home is essential for good health. After years of work to understand and address the social factors that affect peoples’ health, Kaiser Permanente has launched its Community Support Hub to help members and non-members meet their social needs.

The hub consists of a free, self-service, online resource directory and other forms of assistance. It enables Kaiser Permanente health care providers to proactively screen patients for social needs and connect those who need support to community-based resources and government assistance programs.

Kaiser Permanente serves about 4.9 million members in Southern California.

The Kaiser Permanente Community Support Hub is accessible anytime for anyone seeking help with basic needs — including people who don’t receive their health care from Kaiser Permanente — to explore and connect with social services and assistance programs in their communities. A call center and referral assistance resource also make specialists available who are trained to match people with the appropriate services.

“Many people need more than high-quality medical care to stay healthy, which is why we’re continuing to support our members beyond clinical walls to seamlessly connect them to the community resources they need to live healthy, thriving lives,” said John Yamamoto, vice president of Community Health and Government Relations at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

“We’re immensely excited to launch the Community Support Hub that expands our ability to address the social health needs of our members and patients.”

In 2022, Kaiser Permanente screened two million of its members for social health needs — asking, for example, if they needed help paying rent, accessing healthy food, or securing other essentials that lead to good health. The organization then connected more than 170,000 of those members to community-based resources. Kaiser Permanente will continue to expand that support through the hub, with the goal of serving every member who wants social needs assistance within the next few years.

The Community Support Hub also enables proactive outreach via email, telephone and text to prompt social needs screenings and connections to resources, as well as follow-up to ensure peoples’ needs are being met.

Growing evidence supports the fact that social needs are a key factor in a person’s ability to become or stay healthy.

In 2020, Kaiser Permanente surveyed more than 10,000 members to learn whether they were struggling to meet their basic needs. At the time, 63% had at least one social risk factor — such as financial strain or food insecurity — that impacted their health. In 2022 Kaiser Permanente re-surveyed those same 10,000 people and found that 68% had at least one social need, and nearly 20% had more than three. Financial strain, lack of social connection, food insecurity, and housing instability were the most common concerns.

Additionally, respondents with any social need were six times more likely to report fair or poor mental/emotional health and three times more likely to report fair or poor physical health.

“Even when members have their basic needs met, unexpected hardships, such as an illness or job loss, make it challenging to live a safe, secure, healthy life,” said Dr. Ramin Davidoff, executive medical director for the Southern California and Hawaii Permanente Medical Groups.

“There are many social factors that can affect the health of our members, and that’s why it’s so critical to ensure they get connected to the resources they need.”


Category: Opinion