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Determinants of Health: Summary of Virtual Convenings

In the midst of a pandemic, the Olympic region exemplifies their collaborative nature by coming together to discuss social needs specific to the Olympic region.

Olympic Community of Health (OCH) recently engaged Collaborative Consulting to look at how adverse social conditions across the region are impacting health and explore opportunities for region-wide, collaborative interventions. Together, they facilitated an environmental assessment, literature review of initiatives and approaches, and took stock of available data, providing a wide perspective of the various social risk factors and their impact on community health.

The findings from these activities were discussed in three virtual convenings, bringing together a total of 72 local health leaders and community members from Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties. Convening participants represented a diverse collection of organizations, Tribes, and communities. Community-based organizations and social services included state, county, and non-profit coalitions and agencies. 

The convening’s agenda included (access full presentation):

  • An introduction to determinants of health

  • Overview of how COVID-19 exacerbates social needs in the Olympic region

  • Summary of regional assessment findings- assessment was primarily completed by OCH implementation partners

  • Examples and components of coordinated cross-partner action

    • Featuring the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

  • Activity: what would you like to see happen in the future?

Below is a brief summary of common themes expressed by participants across the region.

Housing instability and financial strain are dominant interconnected issues in the region Participants validated that housing and financial strain are fundamental issues in their communities and offered more details around these challenges. Additionally, they discussed how these two issues are interconnected and intersect.

  • There is a critical shortage of housing stock.

  • There is a need for more permanent supportive housing and affordable housing. Septic, zoning, permitting, and other government regulations pose barriers to providing more housing.

  • Income inequality is huge. Many are on a fixed income or underpaid. There is a lack of career opportunities in the region.

  • Housing instability, employment, and financial strain are interrelated and influence each other.  These interconnected issues will require cross-partner collaboration to address.

  • COVID-19 exacerbates income inequality, unemployment, financial strain and subsequent issues.

Moving towards action Many of the issues identified in the assessment are known, longstanding, pervasive and growing. There is great interest across the region in moving the efforts towards more tangible action steps. Key questions were raised when discussing what action looks like:

  • How do we act upstream to have a greater impact on adverse social conditions?

  • How do we transition from being reactive to proactive?

  • How do we address adverse social conditions while in COVID-19 survival mode?

Policy and social changes are at the root of addressing many of these issues

Many participants were surprised that policy changes fell low as a resource needed to address social needs. One participant described how social changes are necessary to shift policy, but first there must be a collective desire to take care of each other.

The graph below displays partner priorities regarding ease, potential impact, and benefit from regional response (circle size). Housing instability and employment were identified as social risk factors that would have both great impact and benefit from a regional response.

Identified gaps:

Lack of funding and siloed funding barriers to progress Lack of funding, siloed funding, restrictions on how funding can be used all present barriers to progress on addressing adverse social conditions. Different funding streams that are not coordinated lead to siloed decision making and duplication of efforts. Funding needs to be coordinated or blended for holistic response to these issues.

  • Broaden the types of partners involved Participants highlighted partners that need to be included and engaged in this work: community members those most impacted by the issues, economic sector, policy makers, public officials, public health, and community coalitions. Some participants highlighted that they were surprised they did not see more around the impact of historical trauma and discrimination on health in the region. By inviting additional voices to the conversation, we can better address trauma, discrimination, and equity issues.

  • Health care delivery and care coordination Some participants voiced additional gaps they see in clinical health care delivery and coordination including:

    • Difficulty recruiting and retaining providers

    • Referral systems and finding services 

Overall, the convenings provided an opportunity to learn about collaborative ways to improve health-related social conditions in the region. At the end of each meeting, participants were asked to share one word describing how they felt about the conversations that took place. Majority of the participants identified feelings of hope and encouragement.

Next steps: 22 participants completed “call to action” forms, expressing interest in various next steps including:

  • Having another virtual meeting

  • Coming together in-person as a region to discuss determinants of health, when it is safe to do so

  • Creating a workgroup dedicated to planning regional action

A key takeaway from the convenings was the need for a region-wide plan and strategy to comprehensively address and impact determinants of health. Participants also expressed interest in learning more about local efforts and success stories. OCH will continue to provide opportunities for collaboration, peer-to-peer learning, and regional coordination on region-wide strategy. In the meantime, here are the commitments OCH will make for the coming months:

  • Complete a full inventory of regional determinants of health work with a goal of maximizing current resources and work, increasing collaboration, and identifying funding gaps.

  • Host a region-ride housing summit including a full data overview, highlighting successes, promising models, and providing space for collaborative problem solving.

  • Encourage current Medicaid Transformation Project partners to advance community-clinical linkages, strengthening relationships across organizations, Tribes, and communities.

  • Build connections and relationships with five new local partners, bringing broader perspective and coordination to this work.

  • In collaboration with partners, create a toolkit of resources to support community resiliency, especially as it relates to COVID-19.

  • Identify and coordinate funding opportunities to support local efforts addressing determinants of health.

If you have specific ideas about how to push forward the work of addressing local social needs, please email We would love to hear from you!


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