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J Gerontol Soc Work. 2018 Feb-Mar;61(2):203-220. doi: 10.1080/01634372.2018.1433737. Epub 2018 Feb 22.

Links between social environment and health care utilization and costs.

Author information

1
a Department of Health Policy and Management , Yale School of Public Health , New Haven , CT.
2
b Yale Global Health Leadership Institute , Yale University , New Haven , CT.
3
c Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology , Yale School of Public Health , New Haven , CT.

Abstract

The social environment influences health outcomes for older adults and could be an important target for interventions to reduce costly medical care. We sought to understand which elements of the social environment distinguish communities that achieve lower health care utilization and costs from communities that experience higher health care utilization and costs for older adults with complex needs. We used a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach. We classified community performance based on three outcomes: rate of hospitalizations for ambulatory care sensitive conditions, all-cause risk-standardized hospital readmission rates, and Medicare spending per beneficiary. We conducted in-depth interviews with key informants (N = 245) from organizations providing health or social services. Higher performing communities were distinguished by several aspects of social environment, and these features were lacking in lower performing communities: 1) strong informal support networks; 2) partnerships between faith-based organizations and health care and social service organizations; and 3) grassroots organizing and advocacy efforts. Higher performing communities share similar social environmental features that complement the work of health care and social service organizations. Many of the supportive features and programs identified in the higher performing communities were developed locally and with limited governmental funding, providing opportunities for improvement.

KEYWORDS:

Home- and community-based care and services; age-friendly communities; mixed methods; social services; social support

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