Research has shown that social factors have a strong influence on health, especially for children. Food insufficiency, for example, has been shown to have a negative impact on success in school and negative psychological effects such as difficulty concentrating, disruptive classroom behavior and difficulty getting along with peers. Housing insecurity, including crowded homes or frequent moves, is associated with poorer health and limited growth and development in young children. When basic needs like food and shelter are not met, children and their families experience poorer physical health and may experience negative short- and long-term psychological side effects from the stress of struggling to address these issues.
Our model is based on an approach pioneered by Health Leads. Health Leads, a national organization headquartered in Boston, has successfully replicated a similar model in 7 major US cities allowing them to serve over 11,000 families in 2013. In the first 17 months of our local project’s operation our advocates have interacted with 315 individual clinic families and made over 500 referrals to local organizations.
Recently published research demonstrated that a patient’s perception of how much his or her medical providers “cares” about them and how connected he or she feels to a medical home will influence his or her decisions about when and where to seek care. By addressing a family’s medical and non-medical needs (“whole person health”), we aim to help foster a sense of caring that encourages our families to stay connected to our medical home and seek preventive care in addition to the acute primary care they already receive.
Furthermore, with detailed information and guidance from a Resource Desk advocate, families will feel more comfortable accessing resources already available within their communities (in accordance with the principles of Asset-Based Community Development). When we address underlying factors that may contribute to or even cause health complaints, a family will be more likely to achieve positive health outcomes. In turn, better health moves families closer towards escaping the cycle of poverty.