Social Determinants Interventions: Good Policy Solutions Require Good Data

Interim President and CEO Robert Dubois, PhD, MD

In his editorial in the American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC), National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) Interim President and CEO Robert Dubois, PhD, MD, says we need to address social determinants of health (SDOH) and improve patients’ lives through approaches based on strong data. Given the clear association between SDOH and health outcomes, “building the evidence base for SDOH must be job one. Good policy can only be led by good data.”

SDOH are conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn and work that affect a wide range of quality-of-life outcomes and risks. SDOH represent nonmedical factors — like housing, transportation, and poverty — that impact health and can cause terrible hardships for patients.

Dr. Dubois notes that we have limited information to date about what interventions work, and even well-designed studies that fail can provide us with valuable answers to important questions. These studies can serve as models “for how we should approach SDOH: Take a smart, stepwise approach to evidence generation in which we carefully assess whether an intervention improves health, whether the health improvement is worth the cost, whether the effort saves money, and what is the time frame in which benefits can be expected.”

Understanding these challenges will enable us to set policy based on good evidence rather than just good intentions. “We have an obligation to get SDOH research right by approaching the subject with a data-first focus,” he writes.

Read Dr. Dubois’ full commentary on the AJMC website.