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Op Ed: New Technology Broadens Approach to Healthcare in Trenton

This OpEd byTrenton Health Team Director of Population Health Natalie Terens, published in NJSpotlight, a statewide online newspaper focused on public policy issues, urges healthcare and community services providers to address economic and social conditions influencing health and well-being.

“A trip to the emergency room for an asthma attack is unnerving; when it’s your child having the attack, it’s downright scary. And if it happens frequently, the ER is probably not the best solution. The ER doctor can treat symptoms and prescribe medications — but that may not address the reason for frequent asthma episodes.

The underlying drivers of poor health outcomes in Trenton are many, varied, and related to poverty, structural racism, behavioral health, childhood trauma, immigration status and other variables that a traditional medical entity is ill-equipped to address.

In Trenton, 10.8 percent of adults have asthma, consistently higher than the state’s rate of 8.2 percent (2016). Trenton residents visit emergency rooms and are hospitalized for asthma-related issues at twice the rate of Mercer County as a whole.

The cause for frequent asthma attacks often is poor housing conditions with dust and mold, or living near major highways with poor air quality, conditions considered beyond the purview of clinicians. Until now.

Building on our collaboration to create new relationships among our clinical and community partners, Trenton Health Team has introduced a new way to address social determinants of health (SDOH) — economic and social conditions that influence well-being.

Over the past year, THT has been providing our partners access to NowPow, a community resource referral platform. NowPow can be used alone, or integrated with our Health Information Exchange (HIE) to enable users to make referrals based on a client’s health and social needs.

New research by the University of Chicago Medicine suggests resource referral systems such as NowPow may have a role in improving public health.

For healthcare providers, this tool elevates SDOH referrals to the same significance as medical referrals, reflecting the growing recognition that housing and other social conditions are “upstream” factors that influence health. With NowPow, they can prescribe needed medication and refer a patient to a partner community agency providing healthy home assessments and mitigation without having to pick up the phone.”

Read the full Op-Ed here.


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