In a recently published review article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), Dr. Anne Andermann, an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University, provides health care professionals with a framework to take action on the social determinants of health in clinical practice.
“Scientific literature in this area has exploded in the last few years. There is mounting scientific evidence that living and social conditions of people greatly influences their level of health,” says Dr. Andermann, who is also the founding director for the CLEAR (Community Links Evidence to Action Research) Collaboration, an initiative that aims to help frontline health care workers address the underlying social causes of poor health through a combination of direct patient care, referral and advocacy for larger social change.
“What is making people sick is the social conditions they are living in. People working in the health sector have a role to play and I was interested in exploring what that role is and how to make sure this information gets to the ground level. Frontline workers have an important voice to support our vulnerable patients.”
In the article, Dr. Andermann outlines what could be done to promote better health in vulnerable populations at three critical levels – patient, practice and community. At the patient level she writes that physicians should be alert to clinical flags, ask patients about social challenges in a sensitive and caring way, and help them access benefits and support services. At the practice level, physicians can offer culturally safe services, use patient navigators where possible, and ensure that care is accessible to those most in need. Finally, at the community level, Dr. Andermann proposes that physicians partner with local organizations and public health groups, get involved in health planning and advocate for the development of more supportive environments for health.
Dr. Andermann has previously worked on research capacity strengthening for low- and middle-income countries at the World Health Organization in Geneva where she was also a member of the WHO Research Ethics Review Committee and a main contributing author of the World Health Report 2008 on increasing universal access to primary health care. She is currently the Medical Specialist in Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Health Canada’s Quebec Regional Office, a Public Health Physician at the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay Northern Quebec, Chair of the Community Oriented Primary Care Committee (COPC) at St Mary’s Hospital, and the focal point at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine responsible for incorporating a greater emphasis on the social determinants of health and a population health approach into the new MDCM curriculum.
Dr. Andermann was recently awarded the Canadian Rising Stars in Global Health award from Grand Challenges Canada and the Clinical Research Scholars award from FRQ-S. Her new book entitled Evidence for Health: From Patient Choice to Global Policy is now available from Cambridge University Press at www.cambridge.org/9781107648654
To learn more about CLEAR: www.mcgill.ca/clear
To learn more about a local McGill initiative in Community Oriented Primary Care:
September 30, 2016