As Congress works to draft the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations legislation for FY 2022, the 191 undersigned organizations request that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) be properly funded at $50 million for its Social Determinants of Health program. We sincerely thank Labor-HHS for funding the program for the first time in FY 2021 at $3 million. The undersigned organizations ask Labor-HHS to build upon that initial investment to ensure that public health departments, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations are properly supported to address the social determinants of health in their communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how a community’s resources directly impact the health of its residents. Unsafe or unstable housing, income insecurity, lack of transportation, and underlying health inequities put some populations at higher risk during the pandemic. People at disproportionate risk for serious health impacts from COVID-19 are also more likely to suffer secondary consequences, such as loss of income or health care. Now more than ever it is important to address the social and economic conditions, including housing, employment, food security, and education, that contribute significantly to an individual’s health outcomes over their lifetime. These conditions, collectively referred as the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), have rightfully been receiving increased attention from insurance companies, hospitals, healthcare systems, and governmental agencies interested in improving health outcomes and controlling costs far before the pandemic.

Yet, while clinicians can identify non-medical social needs and make referrals to other organizations, they cannot ensure that there are adequate resources and policies in place to meet the needs of the referred on their own. Healthcare is most effective when it can extend its work by working with other sectors. Public health departments and community organizations are uniquely situated to build these collaborations across sectors, identify SDOH priorities in communities, and help address policies that inhibit health. For example, while the healthcare system can offer in-house social services assistance at a clinical site, a public health department can complement those efforts by convening community organizations and partners to promote clinic-to-community linkages, advocate for SDOH-related reimbursement, and develop community resource materials.

However, most local and state health and community agencies lack funding and tools to support these cross-sector efforts and are limited in doing so by disease-specific federal funding. Given appropriate funding and technical assistance, more communities could engage in opportunities to address social determinants of health that contribute to high healthcare costs and preventable inequities in health outcomes.

A healthier, more resilient population and stronger economy require us to prevent and control health conditions that raise health care costs and put lives at risk. We thank you for your leadership in FY 2021 and your consideration of our FY 2022 request to continue building up CDC’s SDOH program. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Daphne Delgado, Senior Government Relations Manager at Trust for America’s Health at [email protected].

Download the full CDC SDOH Funding Sign On Letter (PDF)