The Eskenazi Health Foundation Board of Directors has approved a $500,000 grant for Eskenazi Health to accelerate the integration of social determinants of health into clinical care. Already a local and national leader in addressing social determinants, Eskenazi Health will accelerate ongoing initiatives while also exploring new innovations. Eskenazi Health will work with the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, among many other community partners, to assess how and where social determinants of health are impacting patients at Eskenazi Health. Once identified, patients can be referred to in-house or community-based programs and services that complement their medical care. The effort will include automated decision support into the electronic health records system at Eskenazi Health to standardize the identification and referral process.
“Eskenazi Health has seen a great demand for these services,” said John T. Thompson, chair of the Eskenazi Health Foundation Board of Directors. “This funding will help ensure even more resources are available to assist people on their health care journeys.”
Lisa Harris, M.D., chief executive officer of Eskenazi Health, said addressing social factors has proven to be essential in patient care and is in line with Eskenazi Health’s mission of caring for those most vulnerable.
“In order to care for patients most effectively, we need to identify the origins of these conditions,” Dr. Harris said. “Helping to address the underlying circumstances that impact a patient’s health amplifies the quality of the medical care they received and expedites their recovery and maintenance of overall health.”
An example of a health center addressing social determinants of health is Eskenazi Health Center Pecar, which not only offers primary care, specialty care and mental health services, but also provides health and wellness programs and other resources such as financial planning and legal services. It is also home to the Crooked Creek Food Pantry, a partnership of Eskenazi Health, Corteva AgriScience, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. The client-choice pantry respects the dignity of each client, who is able to choose their own food in order to meet their family’s nutritional needs. The pantry has counted more than 180,000 visits since its inception in 2015. This initiative will enhance existing programs such as this, but also enhance or establish many more within the Eskenazi Health system.
“We recognize the importance of programs like the Crooked Creek Food Pantry in feeding people who are hungry today,” said Ernest Vargo II, CFRE, president and chief executive officer of the Eskenazi Health Foundation. “But the only way we are going to make a long-term, sustainable impact on hunger and other social determinants of health is through the groundwork this initiative is providing.”
The funding will be used primarily through the next 12 – 18 months to identify the nonmedical factors influencing patients’ health and create an infrastructure, both organizationally and from an information support standpoint, which will allow for the expansion of existing programs and creation of new ones at each of the Eskenazi Health primary care centers and the Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center.
“We are building on a long history of implementing strategies to address social determinants,” said Dr. Christopher Callahan, chief research and development officer of Eskenazi Health. “We want to meet people where they are and help them get the tools and resources they need to regain their health and to stay healthy.”
“Eskenazi Health has a legacy of innovation,” said Matt Gutwein, president and CEO of Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County. “We are excited to see the positive changes that will occur and look forward to working with current and new partners in order to continue to improve the health of our community.”