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SGIM Issues a New Call for Action to Address Social Determinants of Health

 , June 09, 2020

Physicians need to take steps to combat social determinants of health and health inequities for their patients, communities, and health systems

Alexandria, VA, June 9, 2020: The Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) is calling on SGIM members, other general internists, and community practitioners to expand their reach beyond the medical office and hospital bedside to identify and partner to address the social determinants of health (SDOH). Underlying these social determinants is a history of institutionalized racism and other structural barriers that materially affect health outcomes. SGIM’s position statement challenges physicians and other leaders of care to address SDOH by issuing actionable recommendations in specific spheres of their influence as practicing physicians, educators, researchers, health system leaders, and public health advocates. This statement is published today in the Society’s publication, the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

“A Society of General Internal Medicine Position Statement on the Internists Role in Social Determinants of Health” is a comprehensive look at how the entire range of SDOH affects the ability to care for individual patients, form partnerships with local community organizations, and impact population health and equity. General internists must teach future physicians about SDOH and their upstream causes of health inequities and must collaborate with other professionals in health and non-health sectors to achieve parity in healthcare settings. The paper issues the following actionable recommendations to physicians in specific spheres of influence:

  • As Clinicians – embrace relationship centered communication and interprofessional care teams
  • As Health Systems Leaders - encourage our organizations to partner with community members and community-based organizations.
  • As Educators - ensure social and relational competency for future physicians by developing curricula with SDOH at every stage of education and evaluation.
  • As Researchers - use science as a tool of inclusion by encouraging authentic partnerships with community members at all levels while partnering with other fields of research to solve complex social problems that result in poor health.
  • As Advocates - advocate for the assessment of health impacts of key federal policies and advocate to the federal and state governments to create financial structures that share dollars from all payer-driven incentive-driven savings programs from healthcare and into other public sectors such as housing

This call to action is particularly important as vulnerable communities navigate the current COVID-19 pandemic. In times of pandemic and in everyday work, general internists must partner with patients and communities to understand individual and systematic barriers to health. Centuries of racism have led to SDOH, and physicians must design, implement, and evaluate programs to mitigate downstream health related social needs and reduce health inequalities.

When asked to comment on how the position statement relates to SGIM’s mission of “cultivating innovative educators, researchers, and clinicians in academic general internal medicine, leading the way to better health for everyone,” SGIM’s CEO, Dr. Eric Bass, declared that “I see unlimited potential for our members to lead the way in acting upon the specific recommendations for addressing SDOH in all of their spheres of influence.”

The Society of General Internal Medicine is a member-based international medical association of 3,300 of the world's leading academic general internists, who are dedicated to improving access to care for vulnerable populations, eliminating health care disparities and enhancing medical education. SGIM strives to be the professional home for innovators and scholars in academic general internal medicine leading the way to better health for everyone. The members of the Society advance the practice of medicine through their commitment to providing comprehensive, coordinated, and cost-effective care to adults, educating the next generation of outstanding physicians, and conducting cutting-edge research to improve quality of care and clinical outcomes of all patients.

The Journal of General Internal Medicine is the official journal of the Society of General Internal Medicine.

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The full-text article is fully available online at:

Francine Jetton | Society of General Internal Medicine | Communications 202-887-5150 |

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