Gen Z wants social determinants of health screenings from providers

Young patients want their providers to ask about social determinants of health such as housing and food access, according to findings from a recent poll led by researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The findings, published in the June issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, are based on a national text message survey of 1,156 participants aged 14-24. A total of 1,038 responded to at least one of five open-ended survey questions. The questions centered on participants' perspectives on their medical team's role in addressing social determinants of health. 

Eighty-one percent of youth said it's important for providers to ask about factors such as food, housing, education, safety and discrimination. The findings showed a quarter of respondents wanted their providers to provide resources regarding social needs, 13 percent said providers could help by providing referrals, and 22 percent said general advice could be helpful, while 11 percent simply wanted their providers to listen. 

"As a doctor, what I hear is my adolescent and young adult patients want me to ask them about more than their health. They want me to ask about their lives," said Tammy Chang, MD, poll director and family physician at UM Health. "This opens a door for doctors and other healthcare providers to really understand the root causes of the issues that young people are facing today. Youth in our study didn't expect providers to solve their issues; rather, just listen. I can do that." 

A growing number of health systems, including UM Health's academic medical center, now conduct SDOH screenings as part of patient care. 

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