Beyond the Medical Model: Screening for Social Determinants

Dr. Kimberly Jinnett

It is well-known in the public health field that health services account for, on average, about 10% of health, while additional factors account for the remaining 90%, including contributors such as genetics, health behaviors, socio-economic circumstances and environmental influences. 

These factors that extend beyond the traditional medical model are labeled “social determinants of health” and there is activity among health providers and others to screen for social factors in order to improve the health and well-being of patients.  A recent viewpoint article in JAMA outlines the ways in which such screening could be problematic if needs aren’t adequately assessed and resources aren’t readily available.  It is not a difficult stretch to see how employee assistance programs might be marshaled to address social determinants for low-income employees, those living in poor resource environments or those experiencing socio-economic disruption.  Bringing together employer and medical approaches around social determinants would help improve the lives of employees.  If you have ideas or expertise in this area we would love to hear about it.