Physical health is not the only part of an individual’s overall health. Nor is community health a measure of the overall physical healthiness of a community. Social science research has revealed that a person’s overall health is a combination of many different factors. Often referred to as “social determinants of health” (SDOH), basic resources like housing and food, quality of education and job training, public safety, and socioeconomic conditions can contribute to one’s overall health risks and outcomes.
Many community-based organizations provide one type of assistance, but people often have needs in a number of areas. Organizations then need to coordinate multiple services to help the person rise out of a bad situation. Making that coordination easier is the goal of the new public-private partnership NCCARE360 that the state is launching in partnership with the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation (FHLI), the United Way of the Carolinas, and Unite Us, among others.
According to the FHLI website, NCCARE360 is a digital resource platform that will “be open at no cost to all North Carolinians, systems, payers, and providers. It will be a robust, integrated resource database, website, call center, and care coordination platform for clinicians, social workers, care coordinators, families, and others to connect people to the community resources they need. Additionally, the platform will connect community-based organizations to each other across the State so they can collaborate, while allowing for the tracking of system-wide outcomes and supporting system improvement.”
In short, it will help people find help and make it possible to track how helpful the help is. Theoretically, if the community organizations and health providers had a system that allowed them to better coordinate services and resources, they would be better able to ensure an individual in need gets all of the services they need to fulfill all social and physical factors that contribute to one’s health.
DHHS, United Way, and their other partners are clearly committed to making NCCARE360 work and extremely optimistic that it will build connections and provide needed information. We hope they are right, but our expectations are more tempered for two reasons. First, real connections and real progress always come down to people, not systems. Second and related, the culture of health and social services may not match the technology solution. There will likely be some improvements in service coordination and data tracking, but unlikely the kind of transformative leap that has been promised.