Provision of Social Services and Health Care Quality in US Community Health Centers, 2017

Published in: American Journal of Public Health, Volume 110, Issue 4 (April 2020), Pages 567-573. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2019.305519

Posted on RAND.org on June 25, 2020

by Ashley M. Kranz, Ammarah Mahmud, Denis Agniel, Cheryl L. Damberg, Justin W. Timbie

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Objectives

To describe the types of social services provided at community health centers (CHCs), characteristics of CHCs providing these services, and the association between on-site provision and health care quality.

Methods

We surveyed CHCs in 12 US states and the District of Columbia during summer 2017 (n = 208) to identify referral to and provision of services to address 8 social needs. Regression models estimated factors associated with the provision of social services by CHCs and the association between providing services and health care quality (an 8-item composite).

Results

CHCs most often offered on-site assistance for needs related to food or nutrition (43%), interpersonal violence (32%), and housing (30%). Participation in projects with community-based organizations was associated with providing services on-site (odds ratio = 2.48; P = .018). On-site provision was associated with better performance on measures of health care quality (e.g., each additional social service was associated with a 4.3 percentage point increase in colorectal cancer screenings).

Conclusions

Some CHCs provide social services on-site, and this was associated with better performance on measures of health care quality.

Public Health Implications

Health care providers are increasingly seeking to identify and address patients' unmet social needs, and on-site provision of services is 1 strategy to consider.

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