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Minority Health Month and the Social Determinants of Health [Podcast]

Posted April 18, 2023 by Iriel Hopkins & Marlo Schmidt

Listen to this episode of the Healthy Vitals Podcast.

Iriel Hopkins: Summa Health System Director of Community Relations and Diversity, and Marlo Schmidt: Summa Health System Director of Community Benefits, discuss the social determinants of health.

Featured Guests:

Iriel Hopkins, MSW, LSW

Iriel Hopkins joined Summa Health in 2019 as the System Director of Community Relations and Diversity. During her time she has implemented many initiatives including but not limited to updating the cultural awareness mandatory employee education, securing grants for COVID education and vaccinations and partnering with local organization such as the Greater Akron Chamber, University of Akron, City of Akron and more.

Marlo Schmidt, MBA, MS

Marlo Schmidt joined Summa in 2004 as the Health Education Coordinator. In 2015 she took on the role of System Director of Community Benefit. In her role, she is responsible for steering Summa Health’s Community Reinvestment Board, leading the Community Engagement Committee and strengthening Summa’s partnership with Akron Public Schools.

Marlo Schmidt joined Summa in 2004 as the Health Education Coordinator. In 2015 she took on the role of System Director of Community Benefit. In her role, she is responsible for steering Summa Health’s Community Reinvestment Board, leading the Community Engagement Committee and strengthening Summa’s partnership with Akron Public Schools.


Scott Webb (Host): In celebration of Minority Health Month, I'm joined today by Iriel Hopkins, Summa Health System Director of Community Relations and Diversity, and Marlo Schmidt, Summa Health System Director of Community Benefits, and we're going to discuss the social determinants of health, both what they are and what they mean to many in the Summa Health System.

This is Healthy Vitals, a podcasts from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. So I want to thank you both for joining me today. We're going to celebrate Minority Health Month and talk about the social determinants of health, the SDOHs, if you will. So I'll start with you, Marlo. What are the SDOHs, the social determinants of health, and how are they determined?

Marlo Schmidt, MBA, MS:
The World Health Organization defines the social determinants of health as the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They're the conditions and environments in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age. And at Summa, we're deeply committed to providing integrated care for individuals in our communities.

But what that means is going beyond the expectations of providing access to high quality care. When most people think of healthcare, they tend to think of the clinical medical care, such as going to your doctor's office or going to the hospital. But that medical care only accounts for 20% of a person's health and wellbeing, and that other 80% is really affected by those social determinants, and those are the environmental, behavioral and social economic factors that they consider the social determinants of health. And they affect a wide range of health issues and risks and outcomes. They also impact a person's quality of life and they influence health inequities, which are really unfair and avoidable differences in health status.

And they're influenced by how policies and resources are distributed in their local, national, and even global communities. So they're defined in five domains, and when we look at the social determinants, we really look at economic stability, access to quality education, access to quality healthcare, the neighborhood and their built-in environment, and then also the social and community connections. And the difference in these conditions really put people at risk for poor health outcomes.

Yeah, they definitely do. As you say, for most of us, we just sort of, you know, our uh, interaction, if you will with the healthcare system is really just, oh, I gotta go to the doctor, or I need to go to the hospital. But there's so much more and so, so good that we're talking about these sometimes layered and difficult concepts and want to turn to you Iriel. Why do some communities face greater challenges regarding the social determinants of health?

Iriel Hopkins, MSW, LSW:
Sure. As Marlo mentioned, different communities face different situations. So some communities have a limited amount of resources and lack of investment, so you may see a difference in grocery stores that are in some communities versus others, in terms of hospitals, social programs. And so those resources play a very big part in terms of a person's overall health. There's structural racism and that's seen in housing, in schools and employment and community. Those things impact a person's health outcomes and how they're able to show up and perform. And then we have generational and environmental. Some families have saw a pattern of eating styles. Some families have saw those family members not working out. Some families are placed near factories and highways. Some families don't have safe streets or workout facilities. And so all of these things impact a person's ability to live, grow, and function in a healthy.

Scott Webb:
Yeah, they definitely do. And staying with you, Iriel, why is it so important to recognize the concepts and things that we're talking about, you know, with regard to SDOH, especially during Minority Health Month?

Iriel Hopkins:
So Minority Health Month, it's national and it's a time that we all raise awareness around health disparities, realizing that it continues to affect people from different racial and ethnic minority groups. We want to encourage action through health education. We want to promote early detection and just making sure our community has what they need to control their diseases.

And so, this month is celebrated, but it's also about educating and awareness about different communities and the differences that they encounter due to their living environment, and their place where they work and congregate.

Yeah, right. Like, so we're celebrating this month of course, and we're sort of shining a spotlight on this and trying to educate. But the idea is to make this a 12-month thing and an every month and every year thing to really get at some of the root causes and how to address them and how to help folks. And we know that Summa is certainly doing that. So, Marlo, that's a good transition to you. What is Summa Health doing to address SDOH?

Marlo Schmidt: 
Summa is addressing SDOH on a variety of levels, and one part that I'm really most excited about is we just transitioned to our own electronic medical records system, and this was a multi-million dollar investment that gives us our own instance of what they call Epic, to better align our hospitals and clinics on one platform.

So with this investment, we can aid our providers in assessing and addressing the social determinants of health and that fosters care coordination across the healthcare continuum. In addition, we also expanded to get patients more involved in their own care, the MyChart Care Companion, and that provides a platform for patients to be more involved and integrate closer with their providers.

We also completed our 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment. And the purpose of the needs assessment is to improve the health of our community. And during that process, over 200 indicators were reviewed. We interviewed many community leaders, residents were consulted through focus groups and interviews and surveys and the outcome of our needs assessment yielded the priorities that I'm also excited about, of increasing access to quality healthcare, chronic disease prevention and management, advancing health equity, our mental health and addiction, as well as how we are addressing the social determinants of health. So we have programs and services across our health system focused on these areas, but we know that we cannot do this alone. This needs to continue to foster our strategic partnerships to advance this work.

So Summa has a community engagement committee. It's a subcommittee of the Summa Health Board of Directors, and the members are a diverse group of leaders and their organizations address the social determinants of health. And their purpose as a committee, is to provide the oversight and implementation of our community outreach activities for Summa so we can have greater collective impact.

Yeah. I can really appreciate the value of these partnerships and everybody working together, towards the goals of education and addressing the social determinants of health. And it's been really educational today and good to get the word out and really maybe just the tip of the iceberg. But as we wrap up here, Iriel, what should or what do you want community members to do after listening to this podcast?

Iriel Hopkins: Well, the theme for National Minority Health Month for 2023 is Better Health Through Better Understanding, and so we would like to just always remember to educate ourselves on the health disparities and how they show up in our community. Also we want members to advocate for underserved communities.

So, things like letters to your city council, your ward members, your community levies. Participate in community surveys and assessments that Marlo mentioned because they all shape in how we form and create our communities, and then utilize that health equity lens when treating patients, weighing in on policies and operational changes because they impact different communities.

Last but not least, I just want to make sure that they don't delay their care. We've seen a lot of data and volume with the hospital and people delaying their care. So one thing that you could do to advocate for yourself is to make sure you have regular exams and make sure you're staying on top of your health to live as long as you can and have a happy healthier life.

Yeah, that's perfect. I think a lot of folks were delaying care, especially during COVID, and we want to get everybody back to their doctors, right? Get there for your tests, screenings, physicals, whatever it might be. I'll give last word to you here, Marlo. What would you like folks to do after listening to this?

Marlo Schmidt: 
Well, I echo all of Iriel's comments and when I think about what is health equity, the Center of Disease Control defines it as a state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health. So really achieving health equity will take all of us starting within ourselves and valuing each other. And it will take all levels of society to engage in policies and practices that will actively dismantle those root causes that we discussed and those health disparities. And as Iriel stated, educate yourself and advocate for policies that truly seek opportunity and justice for all.

Yeah, that's perfect. You know that I always fall back on that expression, you know, it takes a village and it really does take a village, and part of that is just getting the word out, educating folks, and then having, you know, community partners, business partners, and everybody involved trying to address the social determinants of health, honoring Minority Health Month and making this a regular thing, a regular cause. And as you, we've all sort of discussed here today is really getting at the root causes and addressing them and fixing them, and so on. So thank you both. You both stay well.

Marlo Schmidt: 
Thank you.

Iriel Hopkins:
Thank you.

And don't delay your care. Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They can also find problems early when your chances for treatment are better. By getting the right health services, screenings and treatments, you're taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life.

And for more information, visit

And if you found this podcast to be helpful and informative, please share it on your social channels and be sure to check out the full podcast library for additional topics of interest. This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. Stay well, and we'll talk again next time.

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