The factors that determine community health
Many believe that healthcare facilities determine the state of a community's health. But interestingly, that's not the case.
Factors external to health services often play a bigger role. For example, the most important factor to determine health is our genetic composition. That's why if you visit a hospital or a physician, you'll be asked questions about your family's health history - like has anyone in your family ever had diabetes? Genetic composition determines almost 30 percent of our community healthcare needs.
The second biggest factor is behavior. This includes elements like exercise, diet and habits (primarily tobacco and alcohol), and accounts for 30 to 40 percent of what affects community health.
The last two factors are economic and social conditions (15 to 40 percent) and physical environment (5 to 10 percent).
As I discussed in a previous discussion, to help foster better community health, policy makers look to initiatives like wellness programs, health education and giving economic and social incentives.
Technology can help, but it will be driven by policy. A good example is LoJack. Famous for building tracking devices for cars, LoJack has introduced a wristband that can be put on seniors with Alzheimer's Disease. With this, even if a patient loses his way and ends up miles from home, the local police can track and return him home. As you can see, this is a policy directive because it needs synchronization between police, technology provider and probably a care provider.
In an IBM point of view called Social determinants of health, the authors suggest that we need to adopt a five-point model to look at health holistically. The 5 points are:
I think the first point, Identify, is critical to rolling out a successful program. Elements to be identified are: How complex are the individual's needs? What are the primary requirements and how will they contribute to his health? Also important are the individual's meaningful personal relationships, and key events in the individual's care history.
To learn more about this point of view and share your thoughts, please join POV author Martin Duggan, IBM's director for strategy and market development, in a Twitter chat on Oct. 3 at 11 AM CT.
I will be on the chat as well, participating under the twitter handle @drvikram
I look forward to talking to you all on October 3, and as always, comments and suggestions are welcome.