December 20, 2018 Healthy Living

A New Kind of Medicine Makes Its Way to Albany

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.

John D. Bennett, MD, FACC, FACP
About the Author

John D. Bennett, MD, FACC, FACP, is president and CEO of Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan, Inc. (CDPHP), an award-winning, physician aligned, not-for-profit health plan based in Albany, NY. Bennett has held the position since 2008 after serving more than 10 years as chair, vice chair, and board member for CDPHP. During his tenure, CDPHP has been ranked among the top-performing health plans in New York and the nation, most recently named #1 in Customer Satisfaction in the 2023 J.D. Power Member Health Plan Study. Under his leadership, CDPHP has also become known as a model employer regionally and nationally and was recently named among the top five Best Companies to Work for in New York by the Society for Human Resource Management, as well as Forbes Best-in-State Employers 2022. Prior to joining CDPHP, Bennett served as founding member and CEO of Prime Care Physicians, PLLC. During his tenure, he co-led a team of 25 cardiologists and helped grow the practice to a 100-physician multi-specialty group. Bennett is board certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Internal Medicine, with subspecialties in internal medicine and cardiology. He earned his medical degree at SUNY-Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, and a Bachelor of Science degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Bennett completed an internship and residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiovascular disease at Albany Medical Center. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American College of Physicians. Bennett is currently board chair for the Center for Economic Growth and the Capital Region Chamber, and vice chair for the Palace Theatre. Bennett also serves on the boards of the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Russell Sage Colleges. Bennett is a member of the New York Public Health and Health Planning Council where he helps shape decisions related to New York State's public health and health care delivery system. Well-known locally and nationally for advancing health care innovation, Bennett was recently named to Crain’s New York Business 2021 Notable in Health Care, as well as the Albany Business Review’s Power 50 list.

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