NC Population Health Collaborative Focuses on Social Determinants of Health

More than 150 population health stakeholders gathered just before the start of the M3 Conference last Thursday, Sept. 14, in Raleigh to hear a variety of perspectives on the theme of the social determinants of health.

Amy Messier, MD, and Lydia Newman, from Physician Quality Partners in Wilmington, profiled their organization and its efforts to address their patients’ unmet social needs in order to help ensure outstanding health for the larger community, improve the patients’ experience and be more cost efficient in care delivery.

Among other initiatives, they described their emergency department Patient Assistance Center at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. They found patients are more receptive to and likely to access necessary services when they are in acute need. Newman also noted that going into someone’s home is the best way to find out the actual needs of a patient – something that is difficult to do over the phone or in a brief office visit.

Blair Barton-Percival, the Area Agency on Aging Director for the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, acknowledged the dire need for services to the aging population, which includes anyone over age 60. He stressed that it’s necessary for health care organizations to work with agencies like his to meet the daunting needs.

“It’s not about competing; it’s about complementary services,” he said.

Rick Bunio, MD, from Cherokee Indian Hospital (and a 2017 Leadership College graduate) provided the hospital’s perspective and described the unique situation and approach followed by his organization, stressing the importance placed on everyone’s story and building a trust relationship with the community.

Karen Smith, MD, a family medicine physician in Raeford, NC, offered the physician’s perspective on social determinants and noted the role unconscious biases, racism and sexism can play.

NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, spoke about her efforts to knit together addressing the social determinants of health throughout the Medicaid reforms being undertaken by the state.


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