August is Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Month. SDOH are the social and economic factors that impact the differences in the health status among people and groups of people. These SDOH conditions, often shaped by public policy, influence a person’s risk for disease/injury.
There are both social and physical determinants that impact the SDOH, including:
• Availability of resources to meet daily needs
• Access to educational, economic, and job opportunities
• Access to health care services
• Quality of education and job training
• Transportation options
• Public safety
• Social norms and attitudes
• Exposure to crime, violence, and social disorder
• Natural environment, such as green space or weather
• Housing and community design
• Exposure to toxic substances and other physical hazards
• Physical barriers, especially for people with disabilities
Access to good, nutritious food is a SDOH, which Open Arms focuses on. As a nutrition-based organization, we are providing clients with the tools they need to implement our philosophy that “food is medicine.” At this time, approximately 75% of our clients are living in poverty and may have limited access to the foods recommended to them to manage their illness. Our services ease this burden by providing clients with healthy food tailored to their medical needs. Additionally, providing clients with 2/3 of their dietary needs may help ease the financial burden of illness. The meals we send may allow clients to focus on other financial priorities, such as medical bills and medications, rather than worrying about where their next meal will come from.
Open Arms’ medically tailored meals impact many aspects of our clients’ daily lives, beyond improved nutrition. The delivered food provides clients time to spend with their loved ones, rather than spending time on meal planning and grocery shopping. Our services provide comfort, celebration and social support. Clients, for example, have the opportunity to speak with Open Arms’ client services and nutrition staff on the phone, in addition to interacting regularly with volunteer delivery drivers. We are not only dedicated to supporting our clients’ nutrition, but also committed to being a part of their community.
Chronic and serious illnesses have the potential to increase the complexity of our clients’ daily lives. In addition to their usual responsibilities, illness adds more appointments, medications, health recommendations and more. Open Arms works to provide good, nutritious food as a resource that improves health outcomes for clients, providing stability and simplifying some of the challenges that our clients face every day.
Your continued support and volunteer work at Open Arms directly increases the food security of our clients. This not only impacts their health outcomes and quality of life, but also helps us all work toward a world of better health equity for everyone.
by Brianna Tobritzhofer, MS, RD, LD – Nutrition Services Director