Introduction: Social determinants of health (SDoH) are the factors that affect a patient’s health quality and outcomes and contribute to health disparities. Evidence suggests that clinical care contributes only 20% to patients’ health outcomes, while the remainder is under the influence of upstream factors. The upstream approach to healthcare aims to address SDoH before they contribute to less ideal outcomes downstream. Several SDoH may contribute to outcomes for cancer patients. This Upstream Gynecologic Oncology Initiative seeks to identify which SDoH affect a population of patients with gynecologic malignancies.
Hypothesis: This study hypothesizes that women receiving care for gynecologic malignancies are affected by specific SDoH among the categories of housing, food, transportation, finances, health literacy and social support. This study aims to identify the frequency of these six social factors among the outpatient gynecologic oncology population at the University of Iowa.
Methods: This needs assessment is the first phase in a quality improvement project assessing the SDoH affecting women with gynecologic cancers. Two hundred twenty-two patients receiving outpatient care for gynecologic malignancies completed an anonymous needs assessment survey. Validated survey questions regarding housing, food, transportation, finances, health literacy and social support were used to identify needs. Responses were considered positive if any degree of need was reported.
Results: Responses demonstrated the most substantial need in the categories of social support (32%), health literacy (28%) and financial stability (24%). Less need was reported in the categories of food (11%), transportation (5%) and housing (4%). Fifty-seven percent of women reported at least one social need among the six categories screened.
Conclusion: Upstream SDoH, most notably social support, health literacy and financial stability are identified to be present and likely contributing to health quality, outcomes, and disparities within this gynecologic oncology patient population. Overall, these findings support the idea that SDoH should be assessed for each unique patient population - and for each patient receiving care for gynecologic cancer. While social support was the most frequently reported SDoH, many patients already received adequate help at home; suggesting that meaningful efforts should next be directed at improving health literacy in the population. Appreciation and assessment of SDoH potential to impact care and management should be used to design a routine screening tool for the study population and organize resources to address or mitigate the identified needs.
Social determinants of health, upstream, women’s health, health disparities, social needs, gynecologic oncology
The authors report no conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2021 the authors
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Nora AE, McDonald ME, Syrop CH, Haugsdal ML. Upstream oncology: identifying social determinants of health in a gynecologic oncology population. Proc Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Jun 17;10(2):Article 3 [13 p.]. https://doi.org/10.17077/2154-4751.1507. Free full text article.