Did you know that where you live is a better predictor of your overall health than your actual genetic code? It’s true. In fact, where you’re born, grow, live, work, and age are all social determinants of your health. Add in factors like your socioeconomic status, education, physical environment, employment and social support networks, and medical professionals can learn volumes about your state of health – all without you ever even stepping into the office. Sounds crazy, right?
It’s actually a much saner approach to healthcare than we’ve seen in the past.
By taking social determinants into consideration, medical professionals have to think about patients as whole people, instead of just a cluster of symptoms and body parts.
For instance – if we know that a patient’s household is not financially stable, we also know that they’re going to have different levels of stress that affects every member of the family. Stress affects particular age groups in different ways. It’s a contributing factor in poor school performance by children, and is a major risk factor for older populations developing more severe health conditions. With a better, more fully-rounded picture of the different factors in play, healthcare professionals can help patients using resources that fit their lifestyle and social support needs.
But using social determinants in healthcare is not the only shift we’re seeing.
Good Mental Health is Critical to Everyone’s Overall Health
Numerous studies have demonstrated that mental and physical health are closely tied together, so it makes sense that they must be addressed as a whole. Studies have also shown that significant numbers of people who are facing serious or chronic illnesses are also suffering from some form of mental illness at the same time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 86 percent of the nation’s $2.7 trillion annual healthcare expenditures goes to treating effects of chronic disease and mental health conditions.
For instance, everyone can agree that cancer is a life-changing and terrifying diagnosis for anyone to face. Most people would not be surprised to learn that up to 50 percent of cancer patients also experience depression, anxiety and other mental health issues stemming from their diagnosis. By treating any underlying mental health issues with medication where necessary, lifestyle changes, teaching different coping methods, and providing the appropriate support services, we can achieve better patient outcomes and improve survival rates. Cancer chronic care cost Americans approximately $157 billion in 2010 dollars, and is expected to reach almost $174 billion by 2020.
The World Health Organization states that around 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Is depression linked to other illnesses? In short, yes. Science still hasn’t given us a clear answer of WHY people suffering from depression are more susceptible to developing some diseases, but the link is undeniable.
Studies by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute show a close link between heart disease and depression. Heart disease is the number one cause of death globally, with 17.3 million dying of heart disease each year. Adults with some form of depressive disorder have a 64 percent greater risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD); and depressed CAD patients are 59 percent more likely to have a future adverse cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or cardiac death.
A 2017 study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session found that people with heart disease who are diagnosed with depression are about twice as likely to die compared with those who are not diagnosed with depression. That’s an astounding finding.
With depression being a risk factor for developing many chronic health conditions – like heart disease, obesity, diabetes and others – it makes sense that early treatment of mental health disorders can help reduce risk and improve patient outcomes. That’s why it’s so important to treat people as whole people.
The Importance of Preventive Primary Care & Mental Health Services
We’re learning more about how mental, physical and socioeconomic factors affect our overall health every day. One positive side effect of the discussion and shift in focus: consumers are more than ready to become partners in their own healthcare, and to become more proactive in managing their personal health and wellness, as well as that of their family members.
Aetna recently released their first Health Ambitions Study. The results were clear. People want more reliable, flexible and accessible options for managing their health. More than one-third of the respondents had a common goal – reducing stress and improving their mental health. When respondents were asked what they would do with an extra hour in the day, 60 percent said they’d spend it on activities that improve their mental and physical health, and 30 percent said they’d also use the time reviewing their daily health tracking information.
The study also concluded that people want MORE guidance and resources from their doctor or healthcare provider. Why? To work together to achieve their individual healthcare goals. Whether that’s eating better, getting more exercise, reducing stress or addressing mental health issues, it’s all positive change.
The key is access. People want real access to the primary care, mental health services and addiction treatments without judgment, and without having to run all over town. They want real options for payment, so they won’t have to stress about the cost. Finally, they need the option to access healthcare where they are, making telemedicine and digital platforms the new services frontier for providers.
At Bayless Integrated Healthcare, we have a long history of serving underprivileged, low-income and at-risk populations in Maricopa County. We’re real people, and we understand the strong links between good mental health and good physical health, too. Our care delivery model has evolved from a mental health agency into a comprehensive, patient-centered, integrated health entity. We’ve changed, all while maintaining our ranking among the state’s leading behavioral health providers.
We believe that this radical shift in perspective and approach to healthcare will result in better health outcomes for everyone, and a better, stronger, more cost-effective well-care system. We hope you’ll join us. We’d love to be your partner in your journey to real wellness.