Applying Energy, Passion and Intellect to Addressing SDoH Right Now

Published on July 15, 2019

When Carrot Health CEO Kurt Waltenbaugh attended the RISE Health National Summit on Social Determinants of Health in Washington D.C., he delivered a Power Breakfast Series talk on implementing successful, scalable #SDoH programs. While he was there, he had the opportunity to talk with payers, providers and policy makers and to attend several panels. This is the first of three blog posts with highlights from that experience.

“It is amazing what we can accomplish
when we don’t worry about who gets the credit.”
– Harry S. Truman

by Kurt Waltenbaugh

What can 300 attendees from payers, providers, government, community benefit organizations, and leading-edge technology companies accomplish over the course of three days? Turns out, quite a lot. Together, we can change the landscape of health care.

I am proud to be a part of the cohort from the RISE Health 2019 National Summit on Social Determinants of Health. The energy, passion, and intellect applied to addressing the social determinants of health is electric. This is truly the challenge of our era, and I am happy that so many have answered the call.

Summary themes from the RISE Health Summit on SDoH

With a hat-tip to Leila Nowroozi from Aetna, the Summit’s keynotes from Jamo Rubin (Signify Health) and Rich McKeown (Leavitt Partners) boil down to three points:

  1. As a nation, we stink. The USA is a clear outlier in health spend and outcomes meaning we get little return for the nearly 20% of GDP we invest annually.
  2. Do not panic. The wheels have been in motion for more than 15 years. We are starting to see positive changes, although it may take another decade for this seismic re-alignment of priorities to be “complete.”
  3. In the trenches – yes, yes, yes. We are doing this work today, and look at these great outcomes. We can learn from each other!

We have nearly one in three Americans on Medicaid. One in five are on Medicare. That is more than HALF our population. The outlook for their personal resources is grim: they do not have the ability to pay for their care now or in retirement. For example:

  • 24% of seniors have $0 in home equity.
  • 8% of seniors have $0 (or less!) in assets, and another 25% have less than $15,000.

The remaining 50% of the county will be supporting the rest. By 2032, entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) plus interest paid on the national debt will exceed ALL tax revenues.

We are having a collision between economic dispassion (the American “lift yourself up by your bootstraps” independence) and American compassion (as a people, we will not let our elders starve).

The skills of Washington have devolved into a seemingly endless routine of self-promotion, conflict, and finger-pointing. We will not wait. The people who will solve the crisis are at this Summit. The answer is in shining a spotlight addressing social determinants of health (SDoH): the social, behavioral, economic, and environmental barriers to health.

Key panels

The Summit’s schedule was full of presentations on actions we can take now to have a positive impact on SDoH and health outcomes in the U.S. In the second and third blog posts in this series, I will review lessons from a number of panels from the RISE Health National Summit on Social Determinants of Health, including:

  • Creating and Securing a Sustainable Financial Model for SDoH;
  • Designing your SDoH Roadmap;
  • Beyond the Buzz: Disciplined Roadmap for Implementing Successful, Scalable SDoH Programs;
  • Leveraging SDoH to Innovate the Payer/Provider Relationship;
  • Purpose Built Communities; and
  • Creating Appropriate Evaluation Metrics for Long Term Sustainability.

Related Posts


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How Health Plans Can Improve the ROI of In-Home Test Kits


Q&A on the Carrot Community Committee (C3)