Payers, Social Determinants

UnitedHealthcare’s new social determinants effort spans 23 programs

The payer’s Community Catalyst initiative includes 23 programs that involve collaborations with various community-based organizations and health centers. They tackle different types of social determinants of health issues, including food insecurity among seniors and the health needs of those in public housing.

Armed with a wide-ranging new initiative, health insurance giant UnitedHealthcare is taking aim at social determinants of health issues in the communities it serves.

Dubbed Community Catalyst, the initiative includes 18 programs that are well underway, with five more at the beginning phases of planning, said Andy McMahon, vice president of health and human services policy for Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealthcare, in an email.

The overall goal of Community Catalyst is to close gaps in care and address health equity issues. It aims to achieve this goal by bringing together various community partners.

For example, UnitedHealthcare is expanding its 2019 collaboration with the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities through the new initiative. The collaboration brings together the healthcare and housing sectors to share data, identify needs and design interventions for public housing residents.

“In the first stages of this project, the local joint partnerships have identified major community issues such as primary care access, diabetes and childhood asthma that they plan to joint address,” said Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, in an email. “Community Catalyst is the next iteration of [the] joint initiative to align housing and health systems at the person, program and system level.”

Currently, there are Community Catalyst programs with public housing authorities in 10 communities.

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Community Catalyst not only aims to address health issues facing public housing residents, but also those experienced by the homeless.

In Richmond, Virginia, UnitedHealthcare is working to provide medical outreach to the homeless with Daily Planet Health Services, a federally qualified health center. Together, the entities engage those with health needs at hotels being used as emergency shelters and plan to expand their efforts by adding two mobile outreach vehicles, said Sarah Tunner, director of development for Daily Planet Health Services, in an email.

“Much of our patient population is transient given their housing statuses, which is why being able to provide care where the patient is — not necessarily always within our physical locations — will allow us to be more effective in our work,” Tunner said.

Seniors are another key population that UnitedHealthcare is trying to reach through Community Catalyst.

The insurer collaborated with community-based organizations Mary’s Center and Shepard’s Table to provide seniors with access to behavioral health and medical and dental care in conjunction with nutritious meals, said Heather Morgan, chief development officer at Mary’s Center, in an email.

“As many seniors struggle to meet their basic needs, health and wellness fall through the cracks,” she said.

All 23 programs within Community Catalyst will be in the execution phase by the end of 2021, said UnitedHealthcare’s McMahon. Next year, the payer will evaluate outcomes, adjust and expand the programs.

“We are well-positioned to serve as a catalyst to bring data and the right partners together, allowing us to align primary and behavioral health with social needs for improved outcomes,” he said. “But we know that we cannot do it alone. To really address the systemic changes that are needed, we must work together with those in the community and on the frontline.”

Photo: alphaspirit, Getty Images