Social determinants of health (SDoH)—the conditions in which people live and the systems that shape those conditions—are increasingly receiving attention. The COVID-19 pandemic, by exacerbating inequities and highlighting the prevalence of unmet basic needs,1 has accelerated efforts to address SDoH.2 State Medicaid agencies, payers, providers, vendors, community-based organizations (CBOs), and other stakeholders have taken up the torch and are laying the foundations for long-term SDoH programs (see sidebar “What are social determinants of health?”).
Despite the momentum, however, many stakeholders across the ecosystem are still in the early stages of addressing patients’ SDoH sustainably and at scale. Stakeholders largely cite funding as the largest barrier to real progress.3 Many stakeholders know of available funding for delivering services such as food assistance, housing support, and transportation. However, options for funding data, analytics, and technology infrastructure that can optimize efforts to deliver services are less well-known. But this funding does indeed exist. And it can be used to support data integration (collating social-needs data alongside clinical and other data) and screening and referral capabilities (business processes and capabilities that include SDoH data sets to drive enrollment into targeted case management profiles for patients’ risk profile).
In pursuing these programs and seeking to secure funding, coordination across stakeholders may be crucial. SDoH is cut across a variety of focus areas and could be addressed better by working across payers, providers, states, communities, and other local actors and agencies. SDoH vendors can work alongside states and other entities to identify these funding possibilities and unify disparate stakeholders to unlock financial assistance, potentially resulting in evidence-based solutions across systems, clinical departments, and programs—and, ultimately, increased impact (see sidebar “Federal funding opportunities for actors that address social determinants of health”).
This article describes four federal financing mechanisms that are available to support SDoH data and analytics efforts and considerations for accessing them. While these insights primarily focus on possibilities for state Medicaid agencies, there are implications and potential opportunities for stakeholders across the ecosystem. This analysis is not exhaustive; rather, it provides a helpful starting point for planning and forming partnerships to support SDoH.