Many researchers agree that where we are born, live, eat, sleep, play and work all profoundly impact our health. Both social and environmental factors influence health outcomes for the better, or worse in many cases. Social determinants of health (SDOH) are responsible for a larger proportion of health outcomes and health inequities than medical care quality and access can tolerate. Despite increasing interest in addressing SDOH in many health care settings, few health care services target them as a way to achieve health equity for all. Obstacles in medical settings include limited staff availability; lack of awareness of existing resources; poor technological capacity for communicating across agencies; minimal organizational support; and reimbursement concerns.
A number of safety-net institutions in several Bay Area counties have recently undertaken efforts to improve patient care by implementing clinic-based social screening and assistance programs, several of which are designed to use volunteers or other workforce development recruits to staff a resource "Help Desk." The Bay Area Regional Help Desk Consortium aims to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these individual projects by offering a regional approach to help desk implementation, which includes supporting implementation, increasing program capacity, and improving evaluation.