Addressing social determinants of health through preventive programs and community partnerships

12 February 2024

Everyone in healthcare strives to prevent illness and reduce the cost of care to those who need them the most to live healthier lives. Social determinants of health play a huge role in our overall wellness, as well as present obstacles and inequities many healthcare professionals are committed to overcome.

Three main barriers exist to improving care for all patients and reducing health disparities: race, location and socioeconomic status. As a leader of innovative and comprehensive laboratory services, Labcorp recognizes the importance of investing in the health of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, income level or geography. 

In this article, Sweeny Bansal, vice president and general manager for Labcorp’s Atlantic division, outlines the negative impacts of health disparities and the crucial role prevention and partnerships have in reducing them. She also showcases work her team has done in Virginia to improve health equity.

Health disparities in the U.S. are hurting patient outcomes and increasing costs

Despite spending more on healthcare than almost every other economically developed nation, the U.S. falls short when it comes to patient outcomes, largely due to health disparities that exist in the country. For example, food deserts in underserved neighborhoods create barriers to finding and affording nutritious foods, fueling higher obesity rates that drive chronic diseases. 

Minority and low-income populations tend to have higher rates of chronic illness, shorter life expectancies and limited access to quality care. With less access to quality care comes less utilization of preventive care.

The role of prevention and partnerships in reducing costs

Preventive care is key to reducing health disparities and costs. In fact, research has estimated preventive services could lead to:

$7 billion net savings

However, only around 3% of healthcare spending in the U.S. focuses on prevention efforts. 

Investing more resources into community health programs that promote nutrition education, physical activity, preventive health screenings and management of common and chronic health conditions can lead to significant improvements in areas that need them the most. 

By partnering to increase that preventive care spend to 5%-10%, it’s reasonable to think the U.S. could reduce the $4.5 trillion it spends on healthcare each year. It also would result in healthier and longer lives. 

Labcorp works to reduce health disparities and improve patient outcomes with our extensive data and analytics and public and private partnerships. We also value partnering with communities to tackle these barriers with innovative technology, solutions to increase access to care and financial assistance programs on a local level.

Community partnerships in Virginia

Labcorp is committed to being a force for good by improving health equity in the communities we serve. In Virginia, we’ve teamed up with the American Heart Association (AHA) to create and implement preventive programs that help the most vulnerable communities learn about and gain access to healthy foods. 

Since 2022, we’ve sponsored three AHA heart walk events across Richmond and Chesapeake. During these events, Labcorp:

Offered blood pressure readings to all participants, screening nearly 100 attendees

Handed out free literature about our test offerings and how routine testing can help support a healthy and heart-friendly lifestyle 

Contributed to the AHA’s Pack the Pantries campaign aimed at increasing access to more nutritious foods and supporting the health and wellness of those in vulnerable communities

In Richmond, we’re providing scholarships to five students with low-to-moderate income in conjunction with the Labcorp Charitable FoundationThe foundation collaborates with community groups on preventive initiatives that:

  • Improve access to education and careers in healthcare fields
  • Address food insecurity and promote nutrition education 
  • Broaden preventive health screenings and resources

The scholarship program allows students to pursue medical laboratory science degrees, as well as:

  • Raises more awareness in those communities around healthier habits that prevent disease
  • Supports educational programs that lead to fulfilling, health-focused careers 
  • Enables more people to achieve their highest potential

Join us in overcoming health disparities

By coming together, we can lessen health disparities in communities. Labcorp is committed to creating, maintaining and expanding partnerships that remove barriers and empower people to take charge of their health.

To partner with Labcorp and increase impact in your community, contact us today.

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Picture of Sweeny Bansal

Sweeny Bansal is vice president and general manager for Labcorp’s Atlantic division, delivering quality and innovation in diagnostic services with a focus on improving health outcomes through data and analytics. With a personal mission to drive disease prevention and bend the per capita healthcare cost curve, she is dedicated to growing healthcare businesses in profitable, sustainable and meaningful ways.

Sweeny holds an MBA from INSEAD. She earned both a Master’s degree in mechanical and industrial engineering and a Bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Toronto. She currently serves on the Richmond, VA, Board of Directors for the American Heart Association.