Keynote Speaker Uses Insights Gained from Childhood in Foster Care to Drive Change
Candace Stuart – Director, Communications & Public Relations
You are a child. You are on your own, on the streets, and you experience an asthma attack. No home care and chicken noodle soup for you. Instead, you end up in the emergency room getting expensive, crisis care.
“That is how I learned very personally about the social determinants of health and the ways we need to redefine our healthcare system to truly address those upstream determinants of health,” said Claire Pomeroy, a keynote speaker at CHIME HIMSS CIO Forum, speaking of her childhood in foster care. While Pomeroy thrived, completed medical school, earned an MBA and now is the president and CEO of the Lasker Foundation, she noted many other children she met in foster care did not do well. Their already lagging language and social skills put them at a health disadvantage that many could not surmount.
The care patients receive in a clinical setting makes up about 10 percent of what determines an individual’s health, according to Pomeroy. A sense of community, educational opportunities, safe housing, job opportunities and nutritious food, among other social and behavioral factors, are all upstream drivers that contribute to health. Aided by this upstream data, the healthcare system could identify those at risk and intervene earlier.
“This is a new way of looking at health,” she said. “We need information about the whole person if we are going to truly improve their health. If we restrict ourselves to classical clinical data, cholesterol, for example, we may miss the fact that this person does not live in a neighborhood with a grocery store with healthy food. Just prescribing more statins instead of getting them access to healthy food won’t change a thing.”
An expert in infectious diseases, Pomeroy will discuss changes that need to occur in the healthcare system to serve communities everywhere. Those changes include thinking differently about the kinds of data healthcare organizations collect, the questions that determine what data to collect and how to use the data once it is captured. Having a diverse workforce that represents the community is also key to ensure that the right questions are presented to the right people in way that engenders trust.
Looking beyond clinical information, healthcare IT systems may need to gather data on socioeconomic status, for instance, or support mechanisms such as food banks. Research evaluating interventions to improve social determinants of health will also be needed to assess their effectiveness. Healthcare IT leaders, both in clinical settings and in industry, will play a key role by finding ways to connect their information systems with other sectors, Pomeroy said.
“Whether it is opioids or gun violence or homelessness or food desert or social isolation, there are so many opportunities to make an impact,” she offered.
Pomeroy became president of the Lasker Foundation in June 2013. Her previous positions include chief of infectious diseases and associate dean for research and informatics at the University of Kentucky and executive associate dean, vice chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California, Davis.
She will present her keynote address on Feb. 11 at the CHIME HIMSS CIO Forum in Orlando, Fla. To learn more about the forum and to register, go here.