Drilling down into social factors linked to unequal health outcomes

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Published Wednesday, April 19, 2023
by Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) Black women are three times more likely to die during pregnancy than white women, even though more than eight in 10 pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.

The recent finding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is just one example of how health outcomes in Colorado and across the U.S. are not equal.

Cari Frank, vice president of communications at the Center for Improving Value in Health Care, said a new data tool shows how social determinants of health such as race, language preference, income, and education are affecting Coloradans at the neighborhood level.

"Things that are really kind of out of people's control," Frank pointed out. "But studies have shown that those sorts of factors actually drive about 80 percent of their health."

Frank hopes the tool can give communities and decision makers the data they need to prioritize work to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities.

The Center is hosting a webinar Thursday at noon to show stakeholders how to access and use the new tool, which draws data from the CDC, the Census, and the Colorado All Payer Claims Database.

The initial data showed income is one of the biggest social determinants linked to health outcomes. Frank was surprised to find, despite a host of factors facing families across Colorado, children continue to have health coverage and access to important preventive care.

"None of the social factors actually impacted kids going to get preventive care," Frank noted. "That might be a testament to our Medicaid safety net that we have in Colorado."

The tool's findings showed investments in safety net programs can also reduce overall health costs. Frank added social determinants are strongly associated with preventable and expensive ambulance and emergency room care, costs passed onto taxpayers when people without coverage cannot pay.

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