Blog by W. Stephen Love, President/CEO of the DFW Hospital Council
A study by Elizabeth Bradley and Lauren Taylor found the U.S. spends a small amount on social programs like retirement, disability benefits, employment programs and housing when compared to other nations. The U.S. spends nine percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on social services assisting the population.
If we combine the healthcare percent of GDP with social services spending, the U.S. ranks in the middle of the pack of the 13 high-income countries in the study. Norway is 25 percent, Netherlands 27, Germany 29, Switzerland 31 and Sweden and France 33. Maybe the lines are blurred as to what category we assign dollars spent on healthcare and social programs.
The countries that spend more on social programs spend less on healthcare. Many patients visiting emergency rooms need social services in addition to medical care. Hospitals spend resources helping patients on problems other than medical issues. It’s difficult for people to be concerned about their blood pressure when they are worrying about a place to sleep. A diabetic without a refrigerator to store insulin may not really comprehend the discussions on AIC levels. Children who are hungry are not going to be focused on a good education in school.
These examples impact health, housing, education and income levels for so many in our country. Sometimes, serious medical issues become low priorities for people negatively impacted by the social determinants of health as they are struggling to exist.
The real question is who is ultimately responsible for assisting people with these social issues? Is it the providers, insurance companies, spiritual leaders, the government? The answer is all of the above. The time is now and all stakeholders must pool their resources in a collaborative initiative and take action to improve the health and safety of all citizens.
Ann Curry told us at our Annual Awards Luncheon on October 31 that compassion is contagious. It is obvious we all have a social and moral responsibility to help our fellow Texans. Please get involved with organizations that improve the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.
Let’s hope that contagious compassion becomes an epidemic.