State Seeking Innovative Ideas on How to Improve Social Determinants of Health

California public health officials are asking residents to share their ideas on how to boost health statewide while both lowering costs and improving care.

The California Health and Human Services Agency and Department of Public Health announced last week that people can submit ideas online through Oct. 12 as part of the state’s second innovation challenge.

Finalists will be selected and announced this fall and will be highlighted at a statewide conference in early 2017. Selected submissions will also be featured on the Let’s Get Healthy California website.

There is no monetary award for the finalists, but their programs may become replicated elsewhere in the state.

This year the challenge is focused on the “social determinants of health,” which are conditions that people are born with or live with and that influence their wellbeing. Social determinants include safe housing, hunger, poverty, quality of education, lack of jobs or job training, public safety, discrimination, racism, exposure to toxic substances and exposure to crime and violence.

“Every year, we learn more about how profoundly the conditions in which we begin our lives and where and how we live those lives affect our health,” Dr. Karen Smith, state public health director and officer, said in a release.

“To have healthy people and healthy communities, we have to create the social and physical environments that give every Californian the opportunities we need to be healthy.”

Last year nearly 100 people submitted ideas for the challenge. One of the finalists, “Ending Hunger in Orange County,” submitted by the Waste Not OC Coalition, encouraged the county to collect unused food from restaurants and grocery stores and distribute it to the hungry.

“Since last year’s Innovation Challenge, we’ve collected more than 280 tons of food,” Dr. Eric Handler, Orange County public health officer, said in a release.

The challenge was created by the Let’s Get Healthy California Taskforce, which Gov. Jerry Brown formed in 2012. The goal of the taskforce is to make California the healthiest state in the nation by 2022.

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