Healthier LivingCare Management
Jun 18, 2024

Why health providers ask patients about food, housing, and transportation

When a member visits a primary care provider, there are some things on which they can depend, like sharing their Blue KC member ID card and stepping on a scale.

Increasingly, members also can expect to be asked a series of nonmedical questions like:

  • In the past 12 months did you worry that your food would run out before you got money to buy more?
  • Are you worried about losing your housing?
  • Has a lack of transportation kept you from your medical appointments or doing things needed for daily living?

Nonmedical factors can have an impact on health

Nonmedical questions like the ones above are part of screenings that major health organizations1 now recommend and many providers have adopted. The depth of importance these screenings have is monumental, exposing factors called social determinants of health (SDOH) that can make people more vulnerable to poor mental and physical health.

Importantly, when providers screen, they can identify and help patients access resources to help fill gaps discovered in the screening. One such resource is Blue KC’s Community Support Tool, which connects people to free and low-cost social services in their communities.

Blue KC believes social determinants of health have a powerful impact on mental and physical health. That’s why we, too, screen and use what we learn to develop services and programs that benefit members.

To do this, Blue KC:

  • Collects demographic information on the Blue KC member portal
  • Surveys members for SDOH on the Blue KC Care Management app
  • Offers a SDOH survey through employers

We do this confidentially to support member whole health and well-being.

Get to know social determinants that affect mental health2

Social determinants of mental health can impact income, employment, education, food security, housing, social support, and the ability to access acceptable and affordable health care. They include: 

Socioeconomic disadvantage – Living in unfavorable social and economic conditions can impact peoples’ access to employment, income, education, food, and housing.

Early life adversity – Prenatal and perinatal conditions – such as maternal stress related to finances and relationships, obstetric complications, and malnutrition – can have big impacts on mental health years later.

Childhood adversity – This encompasses child maltreatment (e.g. abuse) and household dysfunction (e.g. substance use, divorce). One study3 found childhood adversity associated with a four- to 12-fold increased risk of depression, suicide attempt, and substance use later in life.

Migration – Refugees and asylum seekers may have a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder than the general population4.

Ethnoracial discrimination – Experiences such as interpersonal racism, exclusion from employment, and police harassment have been associated with emotional distress and poor mental health outcomes.

Marginalization of the LGBTQ+ community – Discrimination, stigma, anti-LGBTQIA+ policies, bullying, and other violence puts members of this community at greater risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and actions.

Gender inequality and gendered differences – This complex determinant accounts for the prevalence of certain psychiatric disorders in men and women.

Loneliness and social isolation – This determinant and its association with depression has been the subject of many studies. One study5 estimated that 11-18% of depression cases could potentially be prevented if loneliness were eliminated.

Feedback matters

Blue KC members can make a difference – for their health and that of others – by sharing their information. Here’s how:

  • Demographic
  • Social determinants of health information – Connect to a Blue KC Care Team member and the social determinants of health survey on the Blue KC Care Management app. Download it using the QR code below or at the App Store or Google Play. When prompted use access code kcbluewelcome.

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