Based on predictions we can make about the continued and worsening impact on the social determinants of health, here are a number of ways health foundations can deepen and lengthen their impact by leveraging their staff, their voice, credibility, social capital, and financial resources to improve them.

  • An increased proportion of individuals will have unmet social needs Foundations can work with health care providers to increase the capacity for comprehensive and uniform screening for social determinants.
  • Low-income and working poor individuals will lose valuable income Place-based foundations are well-positioned to help translate the legislation into action.
  • Food insecurity is going to increase Foundations who have already been focusing on food security, can build on their work and others who have worked in adjacent issues, such as healthy aging, can bring their expertise and networks to the effort.
  • There will be a predictable increase in people suffering from mental health and substance use disorders This could be an important opportunity for foundations to partner with insurers and others to promote the adoption of telemedicine, which will be increasingly useful as healthcare providers seek to reduce the number of patients who come into their clinical settings.
  • Housing insecurity and instability is going to increase For issues like housing insecurity, foundations can catalyze collaboration by leveraging investments in cross-sector initiatives. Instead of cancelling or postponing meetings, consider ways to repurpose them to coordinate a community-wide response.
  • Children will experience increased trauma related to family stress and will have their educational progress  upended by prolonged school closures and associated “learning loss.”  The California Children’s Trust initiative is organizing a group of funders to work together to ensure that organizations that provide mental health services to children can quickly adopt tech-enabled modalities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and families are connected to these services.

Read the full article about social determinants of health during COVID-19 Melissa Oomer, Abigail Ridgway, and Lauren A. Smith at FSG.