How OTs can address Social Determinants of Health

OT and Social Determinants of Health

If you are from a health system or community looking to address social determinants of health, you will likely want an OT on your team. 

This article will tell you why.

We will also share screens and resources occupational therapy professionals can leverage to help in your endeavors! And, lastly, you’ll find a directory of OTs in your area that are interested in this work. 

Why OT for social determinants of health (SDOH)? 

Occupational therapists help people change their habits to change their health. Through this work, we know that often the easiest way to change health is NOT through focusing on individual choices—but rather on changes to their environment and systems they live in. 

For over 100 years, OTs have taken this holistic view of health. But, it is only in the last decade that new science and movements have supported this multi-layered approach to health. 

Our training prepares to take a systems approach to care and to help craft solutions. This training perfectly positions us for work on SDOH teams.

Screening for social determinants of health

One concrete way occupational therapy professionals can support a social determinants of health team is by screening individuals for their needs related to SDOH. There are numerous screens we can utilize. Below are examples. 

Adult screens for social determinant of health

Pediatric Screens

For even more information on assessing social determinants of health, I recommend checking the social needs screening tools comparison from SIREN. There is also this newly published systematic review: Screening children for social determinants of health.

Action Planning and Implementation

Your organization will likely develop an action plan for addressing social determinants of health. OTs are skilled at creating plans for both individuals and populations. The planning and implementation stage is often about connecting the dots with services already in your community. 

There are also toolkits, databases and social care platforms out there than can be leveraged these include: 

Health Data and Related Technology

Upstream Investment Resources

Action Planning and Implementation

Social care platforms

Social care referral platforms connect healthcare and social care. Some of them offer what is called “closed loop referrals” which is when a health care team member generates a referral, it is sent electronically to a community-based organization. 

The organization then reviews and identifies if they can assist the client. The results of the referral are then sent back to the person who sent the referral. This is important for several reasons: 

  1. Social care outcomes come back to the clinician to manage and promote awareness.
  2. Data on social care is generated to help stratify social care resources. 
  3. Most importantly, clients are not expected to self-solve their own social needs. 

It is important to note that technology is a part of the social care ecosystem and not a panacea to address social needs. However, these platforms offer opportunities to connect health care and social care.

Here are examples: 

Other organizations to connect with who are supporting this work

Addressing social determinants of health not only requires teaming up with organizations in your local community, it also is aided by aligning with national programs. 

Again, OTs are incredible professionals to spearhead these relationships. 

National orgs addressing SDOH

Find an OT who specializes in social determinants of health

If you’ve reached this point in the article, and have decided you want an OT to help you connect all of these dots, you can search our OT Directory for one who has tagged this as their interest. Who knows, you might already have the perfect fit for your team working at your organization!

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Social Determinants of Health with Joy Doll

Would you like to earn an AOTA-approved CEU while listening to a podcast about social determinants of health? You can by listening to this episode of the OT Potential Podcast!

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