The FINANCIAL — Amber King and Jennifer Anderson have served hundreds of people seeking help for basic social health needs. Having enough food to eat, money to pay the bills, and a safe place to call home are among the things that are essential for good health. That’s why Kaiser Permanente operates an online community resource directory and dedicated phone line to help people find community programs and resources in their area.
King and Anderson are trained specialists who help members over the phone navigate to resources. In this role, they have helped with a wide variety of needs, such as helping patients find reliable transportation to get to their medical appointments, pointing parents to child care options, or connecting community members to legal assistance.
Good health requires more than health care
Unmet social needs affect health and well-being.
For example, people may struggle to follow diabetes dietary treatment plans if they don’t have enough money for nutritious and balanced meals. People without reliable transportation may not be able to get to follow-up appointments that would help improve or stabilize their chronic health conditions.
“Social health is a priority for us because we understand that people need more than high-quality medical care to stay healthy,” said David Grossman, MD, vice president of Social Health and Equity at Kaiser Permanente. “Everybody involved in this effort is extremely proud of this work. When we help people in this way, we know we truly are making their lives better.”
Kaiser Permanente’s online community resource directory is a free, self-service tool accessible 24/7 for anyone seeking help — members and nonmembers alike — to explore and connect with local resources to address their social health needs.
If people need additional assistance with referrals, they can speak with a phoneline specialist, like King and Anderson, who will work with callers to further understand their needs and help find local support services. In many cases, they will follow up days later to ensure that callers got the help they needed.
“Some people who call are, by all accounts, in good physical health but may have social needs that eventually could impact their physical health. They’re struggling in other ways — they may feel socially isolated or need child care, transportation, or financial help,” said Anderson. “I am reminded every day how I can make a difference in helping support people’s total health.”
’Tis the season of increased need
In 2022 alone, the online community resource directory had nearly 400,000 visitors. And since its launch in 2020, the dedicated phone line has received more than 42,000 calls from people seeking help. Call volumes recently increased, in line with the start of the winter holiday season.
“People are especially anxious about food, having a safe place to live, and paying for utilities,” said King. “It’s easy to take these essentials for granted when your basic needs are met. However, unexpected hardships, such as an illness or job loss, happen. When they do, it can be challenging to live a safe, secure, healthy life.”