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BLOG & NEWS Health Education and Behavior Publishes Centene Center for Health Transformation Research Examining Social Needs and Health Outcomes

Health Education and Behavior Publishes Centene Center for Health Transformation Research Examining Social Needs and Health Outcomes

Unmet basic needs — which include but are not limited to food, housing and utilities — have long been associated with a range of negative health-related outcomes. New research by the Centene Center for Health Transformation now confirms that people with multiple unmet needs have even worse health outcomes.

The study, “Social needs and health-related outcomes among Medicaid beneficiaries,” published by Health Education and Behavior, is now available online. The study examines the results of online survey responses of more than 1,200 Medicaid beneficiaries in 35 states. Most of the participants were enrolled in managed Medicaid plans sponsored by Centene Corporation.

Findings support the theory that multiple unmet needs leave people less able to focus on long-term goals, including good health. Higher levels of unmet social needs were associated with:

  • Barriers to self-care, including more stress, less thought about the future, and less value placed on prevention.
  • Worse health behaviors, including smoking, less frequent fruit/vegetable consumption and less exercise.
  • Worse health outcomes, including lower self-reported health and higher number of chronic conditions.

“Prior work has shown that health outcomes in samples including older adults and people with diabetes are worse when people have more unmet needs,” notes lead author Tess Thompson, assistant research professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “Our results show that these associations hold among a broader sample.”

The research results have implications for prescribing practices and policy. By implementing social needs screenings at community health centers and primary care provider offices for child and adult visits, opportunity for discussion around available community resources to assist families with unmet basic needs increases exponentially allowing for early intervention. Past research has found that screening families at well-child visits and providing referrals for unmet needs increased the likelihood that parents would later report receiving community resources (Garg et al., 2015). Advocacy to increase availability and community resource coordination at the local, state, and federal level has the potential to greatly impact the likelihood of referral and use of community resources potentially improving the health of low-income people.

The Centene Center research adds to the body of evidence indicating that interventions to help low-income populations meet social needs may help improve both their economic situations and their health. Adds Thompson: “By helping people meet needs, we may be able to affect multiple health outcomes at once.”

About the Centene Center for Health Transformation™

The Centene Center for Health Transformation™ is a community-corporate-academic healthcare partnership that advances life-centric health research to improve lives so that communities can thrive. For more information regarding the Centene Center for Health Transformation, visit

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