Healthy Environment Equals Good Health: The Role of the Health Sector in SDH Initiatives!

Have you ever heard of these calls before – calling on HCPs to act or HCPs taking the lead in responding to health problems beyond medical interventions? Calls such as:

“Health professions call on member states to act against NCDs and social determinants of health.” The World Medical Association in 2011

“Health profession should repeat its leadership on tobacco divestment because of health risks from climate change and air pollution, says Medact and other groups.” – The Guardian

“Doctors should take lead in push to curb climate change: experts” – Reuters

“It is imperative that governments commit to addressing the devastating health implications of unmitigated climate change.” – Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, Chair of the World Medical Association (WMA)

Last February 21, 2015, during the 1st Philippine Health Care and Social Media Summit (#hcsmPH), Dr. Anthony Leachon emphasized the need for health care professionals (HCPs) to be relevant and resonant with their stakeholders by helping them access prevention and information with the use of social media.

To me, this meant not only the use of emerging technologies and platforms such as social media but literally going beyond medical interventions to address other patients’ needs. At this point, HCPs especially MDs are so used to provide medical services to their patients no more no less.

In fact mentioning about engaging patients via social media during the panel discussion – informing, influencing and inspiring them through advocacies (e.g. fighting for patients’ rights) are already beyond the usual day-to-day grind of HCPs.

Many studies and also in the recent Public Health Talks forum on “What Shapes Health?”, panelists (i.e. health policy experts and HCPs) were in unison in saying that non-medical, social and economic factors drive health outcomes. You may watch the entire forum here.

Likewise, this also meant that medical intervention alone cannot solve widening health disparities.

[typography font=”Crimson Text” size=”24″ size_format=”px” text-input-id=”Clear”]What is the existing role then of the health care system in terms of patients’ social needs? Or better yet, what will be the role of HCPs in addressing these needs?[/typography]

One of the most appropriate sound bites during the #hcsmPH came from Dr. Anthony Leachon, which is:

[quote]“Apathy is the biggest problem right now because medical professionals are cloistered in their clinics.”[/quote]

In the U.S., HCPs are compelled to practice a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy literally-speaking according to the confession of one of the panelists at the Public Health Talks forum.

Should this be allowed knowing HCPs can do something about it given the resources made available to them?

[typography font=”Crimson Text” size=”24″ size_format=”px” text-input-id=”Clear”]Having a healthy environment is a very critical part in keeping the population healthy so that they may become productive and contribute significantly in society.[/typography]

The World Health Organization (WHO) had seen this critical connection thus creating the Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH) in March of 2005. This is to support countries and global health partners in addressing the social factors leading to ill health and health inequities.

According to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO:

[quote]“Health care is an important determinant of health. Lifestyles are important determinants of health. But, let me emphasize, it is factors in the social environment that determine access to health services and influence lifestyle choices in the first place.”[/quote]

In layman’s term, health advocates and activists understand the social determinants of health to be “healthy environment” wherein more than just making places healthy, the environment should be espousing a culture of health, which also includes interaction and relationships. Thus, the title for this tweet chat.

WHO defines social determinants of health (SDH) as the condition in the environments in which 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 SDH include safe and affordable housing, access to education, public safety, availability of healthy foods, local emergency/health services, and environments free of life-threatening toxins.

Public health experts, policymakers and advocates alike believe that HCPs have a role to play in addressing these SDH needs of the people and specifically of patients.

Various SDH-related initiatives using social media as a platform have been launched over the years. In the tweet chat, we hope to know more about them so that HCPs may have the inspiration and appropriate guide on how to respond to these factors whenever they encounter them.

With this current reality and mounting calls for HCPs to take the lead in various SDH initiatives and campaigns, the tweet chat hopes to answer the following:

 T1:      How can the health sector be more involved in general on health and safety citing SDH initiatives as examples?

 T2:      How can the health sector make use of social media for this campaign?

 T3:      What social media platforms can your recommend for SDH initiatives?

[typography font=”Crimson Text” size=”24″ size_format=”px” text-input-id=”Clear”]#HealthXPh tweet chat on March 21. Mark it on your calendars![/typography]

We invite members of the health sector including those concern about health to join our discussion this coming Saturday so that we may be informed, we can influence and inspire others to commit to address SDH including the social needs of patients.

Please feel free to share how you have used social media in encouraging and inspiring HCPs and other members of the health sector to take part in worthwhile endeavours and campaigns on SDH.

Mark March 21, 2015, 9 to 10 PM (Philippine time) or 9 AM (EST) in you calendar. Please pass on this invitation to those whom you think can contribute in the discussion.

Please don’t forget to use the hashtag #HealthXPh to join the Twitter discussion! See you in the virtual world!