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Latest issue of Health Affairs journal focuses on integration of health and human services

Health, Human Services

Despite growing understanding within the health sector that factors like housing, education and environment play a critical role in people’s health and well-being, the programs and systems that help people meet their social needs remain largely isolated from those designed to meet their health care needs.

In its April issue, supported by The Kresge Foundation, Health Affairs examines the integration of health and human services and offers examples of successful collaborations and effective models for building them.

Articles in this issue include:

Lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic: Area Agencies on Aging partnerships with hospitals

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the critical importance of community services to support health and social care for aging populations. As hospital capacity scales up to care for people who become critically ill, capacity for community-based services must also scale up to help people stay safe at home. Amanda Brewster of the University of California Berkeley and coauthors examine the impact that partnerships between hospitals and the nation’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)—which provide access to transportation, in-home support, and more to help older adults remain independent—have on Medicare spending and the health of older adults.

Boston: Housing interventions improve health for families facing housing instability

Stable housing is particularly important during this time in which families without homes face even greater risks to their health. In an article about Housing Prescriptions as Health Care, a Boston-based program for families with complex medical needs that face housing instability or homelessness, Allison Bovell-Ammon of Boston Medical Center and coauthors determine whether coordinating services that address housing, financial, legal, social, and health needs may improve health outcomes.

Assessing the capacity of local social services agencies to respond to referrals from health care providers

Health care providers are increasingly screening patients with low incomes for social needs and making referrals to social services agencies to assist in resolving them. A major assumption of this approach is that local social services providers have the capacity and resources to help. To explore this assumption, Matthew Kreuter of Washington University and coauthors examined 711,613 requests related to 50 different social needs received from callers to 211 helplines in seven states during 2018.

Social services program improves outcomes for opioid-dependent mothers.

Project Nurture, an initiative combining maternity care, substance use treatment, and social services coordination in Oregon, reduced the placement of children in foster care by 8.3 percent and reduced rates of reported child maltreatment by 7.2 percent. In this article, K. John McConnell of Oregon Health & Science University and coauthors evaluated 1,531 Medicaid enrollees who had a hospital birth and a concurrent opioid use disorder diagnosis in 2012–17.

For a full list of articles, click here.

Want to learn more? Health Affairs will host a series of three weekly virtual events with article authors and people working directly with integration projects starting on Thursday, April 16. Each session will include time for questions from the online audience.

For more information, visit and follow Health Affairs on Twitter at @Health_Affairs.