Everyday Factors That Might Play a Role in Your Health

SCF Research uses focus groups to collect open-ended feedback from samples of a population.

Have you ever wondered why some individuals and groups of people have exceptional health outcomes while others experience a higher burden of disease? Why might two individuals with the same injury, undergoing the same surgery, have markedly different recoveries? One leading theory is that an individual, family, or community’s social determinants of health (SDOH) may play a key role.

So, what are these SDOH? They include lifestyle choices, social history, behaviors, and environmental factors, all which may have positive or negative impacts on health. For example: lifestyle choices include sleep patterns and participating in cultural events; social history includes things like being discriminated against and marital status; behaviors include exercise and tobacco-use habits; and environment includes access to sanitation and clean water. Earlier this year, Southcentral Foundation’s Research and Data Services Department received a $2M grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health to explore the relationship between SDOH and health outcomes across SCF’s service delivery area.

This study investigates one of the unique concepts of SCF’s Nuka System of Care: the idea that whole-person health should be approached from a perspective that incorporates more than just the treatment of symptoms, to include bigger-picture, underlying factors that play into health outcomes. SCF already collects information on these SDOH, but there is not currently a streamlined process for health care providers to connect this information to the integrated health records of customer-owners.

Over the five-year project period, SCF seeks to 1) develop a culturally responsive process to identify and link Tribal health care data to SDOH; 2) create a data framework to increase access to SDOH-related data in the electronic health record; 3) expand engagement with SDOH data; and 4) increase availability of SDOH-related data.

Many studies have explored SDOH, but very few have focused on Alaska Native and American Indian people specifi cally — considering associated health needs, cultures, and worldviews. SCF is hosting focus groups to gain input from customer-owners, health care providers, Tribal leaders, and others within SCF’s service area that might provide insight to support positive health outcomes for the next generation of Alaska Native and American Indian people.

by Ellen Tyler, SCF Planning and Grants and Nikki Moss, SCF Public Relations

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