CDC Chronic Disease Group Launches SDOH Workgroup


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is establishing a cross-sector Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Public Health Use Case Workgroup to engage public- and private-sector partners to advance SDOH data exchange for chronic disease prevention and health promotion.

The CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Office of Informatics and Information Resources Management said the project will follow the framework of the Gravity Project, an HL7 FHIR accelerator.

The Gravity Project has made strides in establishing a foundation for representation and exchange of SDOH data across and between health- and community-based systems. One of the goals is to design and publish up to three high-priority public health-focused use cases that extend on those developed for care by the Gravity Project. 

The CDC noted that the integration of healthcare, public health, and social services can provide significant gains in combating upstream social risk factors, such as laws and policies that shape community conditions that are largely outside of the control of the individual.

Karen Hacker, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, led off the introductory meeting of the workgroup on April 20. “As we see screening going on for social needs within the healthcare system, with the data being collected in electronic health records, we felt that it was important to be at the table, and to be developing the public health use cases about how this information on social determinants of health on social needs could be interpreted by public health and used by public health for decision-making,” she said.

Timothy Carney, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC’s Office of Informatics and Information Resource Management, added that as CDC officials conducted strategic planning activities to identify areas it needs to focus on in this space around social determinants, they realized they couldn’t make progress unless there’s an underlying data strategy to support that scientific and programmatic work at the top.

“We needed to begin to think about how we’re going to arrive at a common understanding of what critical data elements were essential in helping to drive social determinants of health activity, specifically through the lens of the public health and population health perspective,” Carney said. “We recognize that there are a lot of organizations, entities, activities, and individuals who are doing front-line work on social determinants and health equity. The goal of this work that we’re doing, in partnership with EMI Advisors, is to help us identify opportunities to leverage this work as harmonization, or coalescing agents. Finally, we recognize also that many of us are building systems, solutions, technology applications, strategy, policies, etc. The hope however, is that we can identify a common framework, a future state diagram that all of us can begin to point to and identify as some North Star-like point, if you will, in the future that we want to build toward.”




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