How Social Determinants of Health Can Inform Your Content Marketing

Connecting people to care is the mission behind every healthcare organization. But certain barriers can make those connections more complicated to forge. While there are many ways to be proactive about good health, everyone’s health is partially influenced by a set of factors that are mostly out of their control. These include the place they were born; where they currently live, work and learn; and their financial circumstances. These factors and others are collectively referred to as social determinants of health (SDoH).

Many healthcare organizations and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are putting increased focus on SDoH as they work toward eliminating health disparities. HHS breaks SDoH down into five categories.

5 Categories of Social Determinants of Health

  1. Economic stability
  2. Education access and quality
  3. Health care access and quality
  4. Neighborhood and built environment
  5. Social and community context

While marketing can’t improve a person’s SDoH, when tailored to complement diverse backgrounds, it can help people find their way through the barriers they face.

How to Address Social Determinants of Health with Marketing

To become the provider that your community trusts with their health and the health of their families, healthcare organizations must not only acknowledge SDoH, but practice empathy with their marketing.

The first step in addressing SDoH is recognizing the barriers to care prospective patients may face:

  • Some patients may lack awareness of the help they can receive from a provider or the risks of delaying or foregoing care.
  • Non-English-speaking patients may not be able to understand messaging about affordable care opportunities, health risks and wellness checks.
  • Patients with low incomes may avoid care due to concerns about paying for it.
  • Some patients may live in communities with few local providers and insufficient transportation to find care outside their community.
  • Others may face stigma from their community or family for seeking care.
  • Still others may be reluctant to engage with health care providers because of past experiences of discrimination or insensitivity.

Once you have identified the barriers, scrutinize your messaging and distribution from the perspective of your patients. Ask yourself:

  • Does my messaging use inclusive language that acknowledges and affirms diverse genders and family structures?
  • Have I translated my message for patients who speak English as a second language?
  • Am I reaching patients on their terms or my own? Do they seek health care information on the channels I’m using?

Reach Consumers Where They Are

Recent consumer insights from healthcare consulting firm Engagys suggest consumers want to hear from healthcare organizations on as many channels as possible. Some channels—like phone calls—may be ignored or missed. Ideally, organizations should provide consumers with the option to choose their preferred channel, whether it be a phone call, text, email or social media. None of the consumers surveyed felt they were getting too many communications from healthcare organizations. And for some, receiving more communications on social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram would be welcomed.

Personalize Your Communications

Engagys also found that consumers are looking for more pertinent, personal information about the issues affecting them. More personalized information would make them more likely to be engaged and, ultimately, see health improvements, they reported. For example, when provided follow-up nutritional information, people diagnosed with chronic kidney disease would be more likely to manage their condition with proper diet.

This is backed up by large healthcare organizations’ investments in data surrounding SDoH. Huron Consulting Group explains that “SDoH-related programs will … be diverse in approach and size, but what has become consistent is healthcare leaders’ understanding that patient and consumer data will play a role in how they deliver better health outcomes.”

In particular, Huron points to two key issues within SDoH: food security and housing quality. Large organizations such as UnitedHealthcare and Kaiser Permanente are looking to capture more data about their consumers’ circumstances, so they can provide better care and communications. For example, care teams can tailor support based on a patient’s housing, transportation and home care circumstances.

These strategies just scratch the surface of addressing SDoH. Looking ahead to the next decade and beyond, SDoH will have a huge impact on how healthcare is delivered, and the time to start thinking about and investing in ways to address SDoH from not only a marketing perspective, but also an overarching organizational perspective, is now.

Want more tips on how to tailor your content to your audience’s diverse needs? Check out our blog post on how to make your marketing more inclusive.