Let’s say a young boy comes to the hospital with an asthma attack two times in one week. While prescribing a nebulizer and rescue inhaler addresses the immediate attack – what other factors are playing a role in his frequent hospital visits? How can hospital staff best tend to his asthma and prevent future visits? The answer may lay in identifying the boy’s social determinants of health – where he lives, where he plays, his family’s income – and how those determinants may play a role in the frequency of his asthma attacks.
Identifying social determinants of health not only impacts the quality and outcomes of a hospital or clinic visit but can improve preventative and aftercare outcomes. What if every time he leaves the hospital, he returns to a home with black mold – irritating his asthma and causing hospitalization. Or his family cannot afford to purchase an at-home nebulizer – unaware they may qualify for one with a different insurance plan.
IHELP is an acronym used to categorize these social determinants of health.
One of the primary social determinates of health is income. When someone is unable to afford medication, medical care, or necessities of life, it can make recovering from an injury or illness difficult. Income supports help address issues like rent, utility, or social security assistance for patients unable to afford medications or bill payments.
Housing supports are for those who experience housing difficulties – including those in sub-standard housing or experiencing homelessness. If a tenant with asthma has frequent asthma attacks due to unaddressed black mold, a legal intervention can help solve the issue for the tenant by removing the mold and preventing future attacks.
E: Education & Employment
Intervention in education and employment of patients ensures that a student or employee is receiving the full benefits allotted to them by their institution or employer. This includes medical accommodations for mental or physical disabilities and legal accommodations for Human Resources and benefits if needed.
L: Legal Status
Legal status covers both immigration and veteran statuses. Some immigrants and veterans are unaware of the benefits available to them because of their status. Through a medical-legal partnership, veterans and immigrants can receive information on available benefits and connect with the proper health services.
Making difficult – sometimes life-changing – healthcare decisions are not easy – especially concerning children and the elderly. Health Justice aims to ensure these protections by offering guidance and support by working with families to ensure the protection of rights, assets, and well-being.