A New Kind of Medicine Makes Its Way to Albany

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It’s often called “the most wonderful time of year,” but the holiday season can be anything but for those less fortunate. While many of us celebrate with delicious meals and decorated homes, the holidays can be a source of pain and hardship for those struggling to make ends meet.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of generosity throughout the so-called season of giving. From toy drives to turkey dinners, the Capital Region opens its heart and wallet to those in need.

But what if we transformed the holiday spirit into more than a seasonal endeavor, and made it a continuous effort to give one of the most important gifts of all – good health?

Social determinants of what?

CDPHP has set out to do just that, committing to a year-round mission to tackle what has become known as the social determinants of health. That is, the areas of people’s lives that directly affect their health, but occur outside the doctor’s office – things like nutrition, housing, education, transportation, and more.

According to The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, social determinants of health represent about 80 percent of an individual’s overall health. That means, just 20 percent is related to the actual care you receive.

With so much riding on these social factors, health plans – like CDPHP – are thinking differently about the types of the “care” we provide.

Housing is Health Care

According to the Capital Region Coalition to End Homelessness, 1,540 local residents were homeless in 2016. Knowing that homelessness and health outcomes are inextricably linked, CDPHP developed a partnership with St. Catherine’s Center for Children to provide subsidized housing and support services for some of our most vulnerable members.

To put it bluntly, if a mom or dad is unsure where their family is sleeping on a given night, scheduling an annual physical for their kids or effectively managing their diabetes may not be high on their list of priorities.

Food is Health Care

It’s no secret that what we eat directly impacts our health. But it goes beyond just making good nutrition choices. What if you didn’t have money to buy food at all?

According to Feeding America, nearly 90,000 people are considered food insecure in Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, and Rensselaer Counties, 30,000 of them being children. That’s why CDPHP is partnering with various organizations (Capital Roots, Food Pantries of the Capital Region, HATAS, and more) to combat food insecurity in our community.

One recent partnership with Price Chopper and Market 32 provides coupons for fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables to local residents in need. CDPHP has teamed up with local doctors and pharmacists to distribute the coupons to patients, who can redeem them for nutritious food.

It Takes a Village

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and when it comes to the social determinants of health, it’s going to take a community to tackle this widespread, complicated problem. The government has long been the primary provider of social resources, but it cannot do it alone.

The good news is that we’re all working together. And if we keep our eye on the goal, we can create seismic change far beyond the holiday season.

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