Integrating Health and Social Care

Health and social care is a complex system of interconnected services that are designed to promote, maintain or restore a person’s physical, emotional, intellectual or practical functioning. It is often a source of conflict, and professional caregivers face many ethical dilemmas related to issues of privacy, risk taking, autonomy and more.

To help people live longer, more independent lives, and to meet the challenges of the changing demographics, governments across the globe have begun integrating health and social care. At the operational level, this usually involves a case manager who acts as a single point of contact to coordinate all health and social care support for an individual.

While early experiences with integrated models have been promising, challenges persist. Integrated systems need to focus on measurable outcomes and ensure that they are continuously learning from their experience and improving quality. They also need to invest in key enablers.

In the US, national policy initiatives have catalyzed pilots to integrate health and social care in an effort to improve population health and reduce costs. However, evidence of success is limited by poor study design and a lack of focus on process measures.

A new generation of community health workers (CHWs) are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between health and social care. They are trained to assess a person’s social risks and unmet needs and can then connect them with community services. As a result, they are able to offer people a more holistic approach to care that is grounded in their own lived experiences. health and social care

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