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Humana Targets Social Determinants to Improve Population Health

A Humana initiative targets social determinants of health to boost population health and improve outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries.

Humana targets social determinants to improve population health

Source: Thinkstock

By Jessica Kent

- Humana’s Bold Goal program, a comprehensive strategy aiming to improve population health, focuses on identifying and addressing social determinants of health to boost outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries in communities across the country.

The Bold Goal program tracks its success using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) population health tool Healthy Days, which measures both physically and mentally unhealthy days in individuals over a 30-day period.

“Healthy Days has been a powerful measure for Humana to evaluate our Bold Goal progress,” said Tristan Cordier, MPH, Clinical Data Scientist at Humana Clinical Analytics.

“A person’s reported Unhealthy Days captures the types of data typically collected by the health care system like chronic conditions and acute events, but also gives insight into other dimensions of well-being including barriers present in the community and in the home.”

Healthy Days has allowed Humana to determine key social determinants of health, including food insecurity, loneliness, and social isolation. The tool has also helped Humana identify specific groups in need, such as seniors and lower-income adults.

When it comes to food insecurity, loneliness, and isolation, seniors face unique challenges. Humana noted that food insecure seniors are 50 percent more likely to have diabetes, and 60 percent more likely to experience a heart attack.

Lonely or socially isolated seniors are at twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and over three times more likely to suffer from depression.

In 2017, the Bold Goal initiative worked to implement pilots and programs in several US communities that would alleviate the health problems resulting from these key social determinants.

Of all the Bold Goal communities, Knoxville showed the most significant improvement in Healthy Days: Medicare members increased their Healthy Days by 5.4 percent in 2017, and Medicare members with diabetes increased their Healthy Days by 9.7 percent.

To accomplish this, the Greater Knoxville Health Advisory Board and the Humana Knoxville Bold Goal team held cooking demonstrations that focused on diabetes education. These groups also implemented a mobile health program that would bring medical care and education to members who did not have an established relationship with a primary care physician.

San Antonio, the first Bold Goal community, also showed significant improvement in 2017. The Medicare population showed a 3.5 percent increase in Healthy Days. Medicare members with diabetes experienced a 5.1 percent increase in Healthy Days.

Humana credits these improvements to the collaborative work of the San Antonio Health Advisory Board and the Humana San Antonio Bold Goal team. Both groups worked to address diabetes management by creating the Diabetes Resources Guide, a free online source for diabetes information.

Additional partnerships with the San Antonio Food Bank and the YMCA allowed Humana members to access monthly distributions of food and increased nutrition and health literacy in patients living with diabetes.

Health literacy programs also improved population health in New Orleans. The Health Literacy Committee worked to promote health literacy in Humana members across the community. As a result, Healthy Days improved for Medicare members overall by 3.9 percent and for Medicare members with diabetes by 4.1 percent.

In 2018, Bold Goal team members plan to scale their efforts and expand the initiative to other communities across the country. Humana expects Bold Goal leaders to use their knowledge of social determinants and further improve health outcomes for seniors and other Humana members.

“Positive change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s the result of strong collaboration, steadfast resolve and innovative thinking. I’m encouraged by this year’s Healthy Days results and the future of our Bold Goal,” said Humana CEO Bruce Broussard.

“As the US population ages, we need to support their needs as well as the nurses, physicians and caregivers who are providing direct services and care. Our focus on collective impact and addressing social determinants of health inside and outside of the clinical setting is leading us toward more Healthy Days.”

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