#NPHW: How Screening for SDOH Can Help Advance Racial Equity

2021 has public health in the spotlight more than ever. With this year’s National Public Health Week theme of “Advancing Racial Equity,” we wanted to discuss the profound effects discrimination can have on youth.

One in five youth will have a serious mental health disorder at some point in their life, and half of all mental health issues begin by age 14. Those statistics are even more dire with the adversity of COVID and its effect on their social determinants of health (SDOH)—from homelessness and food insecurity to discrimination. According to data from the Rapid Adolescent Prevention Screening© for Public Health (RAAPS-PH), one in ten youth reported experiencing discrimination in the last year. Additionally, youth who have experienced discrimination face higher rates of other risk factors (68% reported experiencing depression) compared to the general youth population (29% reported depression). Addressing SDOH is imperative for strengthening our communities and creating much needed resiliency during crisis and beyond.

One of the most effective ways of identifying and addressing risk in youth is through standardized screening. When paired with follow-up risk coaching and referral, screening can provide an avenue for disclosure and ensure youth feel heard, a critical first step in understanding the needs of youth and providing support. And our youth need support now more than ever. 

Use of an evidence-based tool, like RAAPS-PH, helps uncover chronic exposure to social and environmental stressors (such as hunger, homelessness, teen pregnancy and discrimination) that threaten healthy brain, cognitive, and social-emotional development. Integrated virtual counseling and remote screening capabilities can further help organizations partner for effective care management to support youth and families no matter the distance.

A recent case study of a statewide collaboration in Michigan showcases the effectiveness of screening for SDOH, identifying youth at high risk and creating partnerships to address needs. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services worked with 13 organizations and 52 school-based health centers across the state to help identify and address SDOH affecting health, well-being, and graduation rates. One site reported: “Identifying SDOH has pushed me to assertively access resources for our students in developing relationships with community, police, and other agencies that have made the lives of our students easier.”

Interested in addressing SDOH in your community? Join us for a 20-minute Brief Opportunity of Supportive Training (BOOST) at 3pm EST on April 28 for an overview on the current state of adolescent SDOH and how you can take action. Register now.