Wellness benefits play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of social determinants of health (SDOH), and with the increasing prominence of Medicare Advantage plans, there’s a growing emphasis on prioritizing the mental, physical, and medical well-being of individuals. However, wellness benefits can be more effective when they directly address specific determinants of health relevant to seniors, offering tailored solutions to bridge gaps in healthcare access and overall well-being.
What are social determinants of health?
Social determinants of health (SDOH) encompass the environmental, economic, and societal factors that shape individuals' well-being. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines SDOH as “the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” Examples of these determinants are things like where people are born, someone's income and neighborhood. Notably, these factors are often out of personal control, yet they make a large impact on one’s health. The ability to lead a healthy lifestyle and the capacity for self-improvement in health are frequently dictated by these aspects of life.
Recognizing the impact of SDOH is crucial for fostering health equity. It’s so important that the White House released the first-ever U.S. Playbook to Address Social Determinants of Health – a playbook that “lays out an initial set of structural actions federal agencies are undertaking to break down these silos and to support equitable health outcomes by improving the social circumstances of individuals and communities.” Many actions listed in the playbook rely on individuals and communities to step up and address SDOH.
By incorporating discussions about SDOH into conversations about wellness benefits, you can better address the root causes of health disparities and work towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment. Let’s dive into a few aspects of SDOH and how a health and wellness platform can help Medicare Advantage carriers better support their people.
How Medicare Advantage plans can address social determinants of health
- Health Care Access and Quality
One major aspect to consider with SDOH is if a person has access to health care. Inadequate access to health care can put health and well-being at risk. Without proper care, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions can’t be treated, leading to serious health issues. One critical barrier is transportation, as certain individuals may struggle to reach medical facilities due to factors such as lack of personal transportation, limited public transportation options, or geographical remoteness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10% of the United States population lacks health insurance, resulting in a significant portion of individuals being without a primary care provider, which can also typically mean they’re deprived of access to quality health care. On top of that, individuals with low incomes often find it challenging to afford the necessary medical expenses for proper treatment of their health conditions.
How FitOn Health Can Help
A comprehensive health and wellness program should extend beyond the encouragement of routine doctor visits – it should also offer support in situations where accessing medical care becomes difficult. A wellness program should not only be based on encouraging regular health check-ups but also provide support when medical care is hard to receive. A holistic wellness program will help in improving health and reducing health disparities.
- Neighborhood and Built Environment
A safe, sustainable and healthy environment is key to the health and well-being of a community. Sometimes, a person’s neighborhood gives a disadvantage to their health and medical care. If someone does not have a quality health care facility, or even a fitness gym nearby, it’s harder for them to prioritize their medical and physical health. This is particularly pronounced in low-income areas or among those experiencing housing insecurity, where personal health may not be a top priority. Consequently, individuals who struggle to prioritize their health may experience heightened stress levels and an increased likelihood of poor health outcomes. Housing insecurity is also associated with higher medical problems like arthritis, seizures, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
How FitOn Health Can Help
Wellness programs can help address these needs by providing gym memberships and flexible resources that account for travel time and cost. Medicare Advantage providers can do this by partnering with companies like FitOn Health. FitOn Health aims to provide seniors with an all-in-one wellness benefit, providing access to condition-based health education, premium fitness fit for older adults, nutritional guidance, and mindfulness content. Plus, flexible and easy access to gym memberships and fitness programs in their nearby areas.
- Social and Community Relationships
One of the lesser talked about, but equally important SDOH are one’s social contexts. One's community and the way they are treated in social contexts can often be a determining factor in their physical and mental health – especially for older adults.
If someone is without a family, group of friends, or otherwise is without a sufficient support system, it could bring negative implications on their health. Without a support system, one can have increased depression and anxiety, and even higher blood pressure. People who are more likely to experience discrimination will also experience these health effects and increased stress. Discrimination, whether based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, or other factors, can create a toxic environment that not only negatively impacts mental well-being but also manifests in physical health consequences.
How FitOn Health Can Help
For seniors, SDOH are profoundly influenced by factors like isolation and limited mobility. A comprehensive health and wellness platform can address these challenges by fostering a sense of community and connection among older adults. FitOn Health provides a hybrid experience (both digital and in-person) where seniors can engage with like-minded individuals, share workouts, and access valuable resources. By also offering gym access tailored to seniors' needs, the platform encourages regular physical activity, promoting not only physical health but also mental and emotional well-being. Not only will this improve seniors’ support systems, but also will create an environment that contributes to improved overall well-being and a sense of belonging.
Go beyond medical care
Medicare Advantage plans and healthcare providers can proactively address SDOH by identifying specific needs and collaborating directly with community-based organizations. In tandem with these efforts, integrating a robust health and wellness program becomes pivotal. These programs not only contribute to identifying and understanding SDOH but also actively work towards addressing them. By incorporating wellness initiatives into their strategies, Medicare Advantage plans can enhance health outcomes within communities, and foster a comprehensive approach that not only identifies and meets immediate needs but also promotes sustained well-being over time.
Ready to explore the possibilities? Learn more about how FitOn Health can support diverse senior benefits to transform the Medicare landscape.
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