By EWA MATUSZEWSKI
The upstreamists are coming! The upstreamists are coming! If you know what I’m talking about, I’ll consider you a loyal follower of this column—or someone who is already attuned to the social determinants of health (#SDOH). In my October 2017 column, I discussed a call to action on #SDOH and cited the upstreamist term used by Rishi Manchanda, MD, a physician and public health innovator who has worked in South Central Los Angeles and advocates for incorporating #SDOH into primary care.
I couldn’t be more excited to announce that Dr. Manchanda will be coming to Michigan (for the first time!) when MedNetOne joins with the Oakland University School of Health Sciences on Wednesday, April 18 to present a day-long symposium at OU on #SDOH, Better Upstream Health for Better Downstream Care. Dr. Manchanda will be joined by healthcare innovator Paul Grundy MD, MPH, who just stepped down after a stellar career as IBM’s Global Director of Healthcare Transformation and is considered the “godfather” of the Patient Centered Medical Home.
A quick review: social determinants of health may include:
• Economic resources, including access to jobs that provide a living wage
• Safe workplaces and safe neighborhoods
• Quality of schools and availability for advanced education and training
• Clean and safe water, air and food
• Positive support systems through home and family relationships and extended social interactions
The broad spectrum of factors comprising #SDOH can make it challenging to know where to begin when managing health crises that arise as a result of inadequate understanding of the role #SDOH play in overall health and quality of life. To this end, Better Upstream Health for Better Downstream Care is an important event – but not only for those directly involved with providing healthcare and administering healthcare programs or organizations. It’s planned as a community event to engage the healthcare community, legislators, local and state leaders, business decision makers and concerned citizens who want to be part of the solution for holistic healthcare that addresses the role that #SDOH play in overall health and wellness.
Tragically, we have all seen how #SDOH has played out in Flint and with other social and environmental disasters. This conference is a call to action to identify new opportunities for innovative programs and cross-sector partnerships to drive change across and between social services and health systems and help galvanize current and potential upstreamists as part of the solution. No one person or organization can do this alone. With more upstreamists in the community we can enhance and target efforts to raise awareness of -and act on- #SDOH in the broader public health conversation. Upstreamists investigate and aim to resolve the root cause of illness or lingering ill health; they don’t necessarily treat symptoms. Although physicians can certainly be upstreamists, as Drs. Manchanda and Grundy have already shown, we also need a greater reach and buy-in. We need pharmacists, clinicians, community health workers, social workers, behavioral health specialists, public health experts and public interest attorneys. We also need students like those at OU’s School of Health Sciences and other academic disciplines, including liberal arts, engineering and computer science, to be thinking of new ideas and innovations that address #SDOH.
It’s a new era, and we need all hands on deck to make measurable change through multi-disciplinary initiatives. Please join us on April 18 and help Michigan launch an upstreamist community network.
To register for the event or for sponsorship information, visit https://www.oakland.edu/shs/healthology/. If you want to help Michigan be a leader in developing upstreamists, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org