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Having unmet social needs ups cardiovascular risk



Having unmet social needs plays a key role in raising the risk of cardiovascular disease among immigrant, socially isolated, and low-income populations, according to a study.

Jennifer Reising/MDege News

Dr. Ana Palacio

“Although there have been great medical interventions and our technology keeps improving, we can’t prevent the burden of cardiovascular disease. It’s the social factors that are playing this role,” said Ana Palacio, MD, MPH, of the University of Miami during her presentation of the study findings at the annual meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine.

“We need to address issues at the patient’s home, such as food, isolation, and transportation, to help them prevent cardiovascular risk,” she added.

The study was designed to determine how patient-reported social determinants of health (SDH) had an effect on the Framingham risk score (FRS). Researchers also wanted to assess the relationship between the SDH score and individual risk factors for cardiovascular health, including blood pressure, hemoglobin A1c, LDL cholesterol, body mass index, tobacco use, and physical activity.

Results showed that several SDH factors significantly increase the FRS score, including being born outside of the United States, living alone, having a high social isolation score, and having a low geocoded-based median household income (P less than .01). The calculated SDH score ranged from 0 to 59.

Higher SDH scores were associated with high FRS scores in the areas of poor blood pressure and diabetes control. Additionally, those who had financial strain, poor health literacy, stress, lack of education, and a low median household income were more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle. Black or Hispanic patients who were born outside the United States and had low median household income were at a higher risk of obesity.

The retrospective cohort study originally involved 11,113 primary care patients who received care at the University of Miami Health System between Sept. 16, 2016 and Sept. 10, 2017 and answered an SDH survey. Of this group, 2,876 patients completed the electronic health record data to compile a score. This population had a mean age of 53.8 years and was 61% female; 38% were Hispanic and 9% were black. The mean household income was $53,677 and 87% reported speaking English.

The study examined a total of 11 self-reported and census-based SDH factors. The self-reported factors were race/ethnicity, education, financial strain, stress, tobacco use and physical activity, social isolation, years living in the United States, health literacy, and delayed care. The remaining factors were based on an area deprivation index and census-driven median household income.

“The most surprising finding was how much weight the social factors have in adding to the Framingham risk score, in taking a patient from a medium score to a higher score because of their social environment,” said Dr. Palacio.

The study was funded by the Precision Medicine and Health Disparities Collaborative and was supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

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