Anthem study on social drivers of health is a wake up call

Michael Jefferson MD

For many of us in Connecticut, health and healthcare are at the top of the agenda. As Medical Director for the largest insurer in the state, this is especially true in my circles. Given this, you can imagine how surprised I was to learn that 55% of Connecticut residents were not familiar with the concept of social drivers of health (SDoH) when asked as part of a recent study conducted by Anthem, Inc., parent company to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliated health plans.

Driving Our Health: A study exploring health perceptions in America looked to broaden our view of health with an understanding of what people currently believe. How do we think we are being affected by drivers like food, housing, and transportation? How do we think others are affected? Do we even believe that social drivers play a role in our health?

And while more than half of Connecticut residents may have shared that they were not familiar with SDoH, when given the definition, 57% stated that they believe their community is facing health issues due to SDoH. These numbers were a wake-up call for me – as much as many of us in this state talk about health and healthcare, there are many of us who are still becoming more familiar with the basics, including the fact that external factors like nutritious food, safe housing, and reliable transportation are impacting people’s health. Recognizing this, I see an opportunity for us to start a broader conversation to deepen people’s understanding of whole health and what drives it – and now is the perfect time to do it.

The pandemic brought health to the forefront in a way that it never has been before – in fact, the Driving Our Health study showed 86% of people in Connecticut believe that the COVID-19 pandemic made them more conscious of their whole health. Additionally, 86% of people in Connecticut also believe insurance companies are responsible for addressing SDoH and health inequities. Back to my earlier point, there is really an opportunity here – especially given that we’re in the insurance capital of the world – to take ownership of empowering people with the knowledge and tools to be and stay healthy.

An excerpt from Anthem’s “Driving Our Health” study.

In the study, people across our state told us that the top three drivers negatively impacting their health are financial stability, mental health, and affordable housing. The study also found that people in Connecticut reported that free resources to monitor overall health would be the top program that could help. Anthem gives members access to Sydney Health, an app that offers members the opportunity to find free or reduced cost services through the Find Community Resources function. Additionally, many of Anthem’s Medicare Advantage plans offer access to benefits such as a health & fitness tracker; healthy food; an allowance to purchase dental, vision, and hearing services and items; and more.

Another new resource in Connecticut is a program called Covered Connecticut, which offers more people access to healthcare coverage across the state – and for some – it is available at no cost. As part of our efforts to give people the tools to be and stay healthy, we encourage people, even those who previously did not qualify for federal subsidies, to visit to see if they’re now eligible for affordable – and in some cases – free health coverage through Covered Connecticut.

I’m excited to kick off this broader conversation about whole health and to point people to the many resources available from Anthem, and more generally, across our state. To learn more about the Driving Our Health study and what shapes whole health, visit the What’s Driving Our Health microsite and the Driving Our Health Instagram.

Dr. Michael Jefferson is Managing Medical Director, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut.

CTViewpoints welcomes rebuttal or opposing views to this and all its commentaries. Read our guidelines and submit your commentary here.