The Role of Healthcare Systems in Advocating for Social Change

By | May 24, 2024

The healthcare delivery ecosystem stands as a crucial pillar of society, dedicated to providing care when it’s needed. Yet, in our noble pursuit of meeting this demand and ensuring the common good through prevention initiatives, we’ve perhaps overlooked a vital aspect: the power of advocacy for social and behavioral change. Shouldn’t healthcare systems extend their reach beyond clinical walls to address the underlying social determinants of health?

While healthcare systems undeniably impact these determinants through expanded services and community support, there’s a call for a paradigm shift. It’s time to recognize that our role transcends mere care provision; we possess the expertise and resources to influence policy and drive systemic change at a national level. However, this requires a collective belief in our capacity to effect change and a willingness to collaborate across sectors.

A recent study in Health Affairs by Arbour et al., Primary Care-Based Housing Program Reduced Outpatient Visits; Patient Reported Mental and Physical Benefit, is just one of many studies showing that housing interventions reduce the needs of individuals, especially those historically marginalized. Additionally, a study by Newman et al., Experimental Evidence Shows that Housing Vouchers Provided Measurable Benefits, Including Parent Stress Reduction, illuminated a methodology to create housing affordability and its positive impact. These successes underscore the transformative potential of addressing basic needs. They serve as beacons of hope, reminding us that change is possible and urging us to advocate for policies that address social determinants.

While individual efforts are commendable, collaborative action is essential for meaningful progress. We must harness our collective intelligence, experiences, and advocacy prowess to tackle systemic issues head-on. It’s time to reimagine our role not just as healthcare providers but as agents of change in our communities through our ability to deliver, but also impact change at a systematic level.

Indeed, navigating the realm of policy may seem daunting, but there’s strength in our diversity of approaches. Whether through grassroots education, engagement and activation, or strategic lobbying, our goal remains the same: to champion the health and well-being of our communities. Additionally, there is a positive financial impact. A healthy community is good business, attracting new industry and elevating the ability for people to be productive and happy.

Let’s shift our focus from delivering care reactively to advocating proactively for policies that foster healthier communities. By leveraging our collective voice and influence, we can drive tangible change at a macro level. Together, let’s unite our efforts and pave the way for a healthier, more equitable future.