From Wellness to Resilience: AmeriHealth Caritas Announces Creation of Social Determinants of Life, Inc.
New company to focus on life outcomes, beginning with $29 million investment to leverage social networks for improved health and mobility out of poverty
AmeriHealth Caritas, a national leader in Medicaid managed care and other solutions for those most in need, announced today the creation of a new company, Social Determinants of Life, Inc. An early pioneer in addressing the health outcomes of people who are challenged by poverty and disability, AmeriHealth Caritas is now pursuing a longer-term focus on resilience and life outcomes. The Social Determinants of LifeSM category encompasses all of the social and environmental factors that engender or inhibit wellness and opportunity.
“We know today that up to 80% of our health is tied to social determinants: things like housing, education, job training, transportation and access to healthy foods. Your ZIP Code can have a much greater impact on how long you live, and on your quality of life, than your genetic code,” said Paul A. Tufano, Chairman and CEO of AmeriHealth Caritas.
“That’s why we refer to the Social Determinants of LifeSM. We are looking beyond health outcomes and leveraging our unique expertise and grassroots approach to improve life outcomes. We need to help people overcome poverty and achieve their American Dream.”
Addressing underlying root causes in addition to acute health needs — with a goal of building long-term resilience — marks a shift in the industry’s current model for achieving and measuring success.
Launching Social Determinants of Life, Inc.
Despite the outsized importance of social, environmental, and behavioral factors, our health care system was built on a clinical framework and remains primarily oriented to clinical interactions and interventions. The newly established Social Determinants of Life, Inc. is a unique social determinants-first company that has been designed to solve for the Social Determinants of LifeSM.
“AmeriHealth Caritas is remaking the clinical-first architecture of our current health care system, building a new model that places social and environmental factors at the foundation — where they belong. The creation of Social Determinants of Life, Inc. is a turning point as we partner with millions of Americans on their journey from wellness to resilience,” said Tufano.
Hiring for key leadership positions at Social Determinants of Life, Inc. is being initiated. The new company — a wholly owned subsidiary of AmeriHealth Caritas — will invest in, support, and deploy solutions to help people in need build resilience, and help improve their life outcomes.
Leveraging the Power of Social Networks
As an initial move to accelerate promising work in social determinants and life outcomes, the company has made a substantial Series B investment of $29 million in Wider Circle, a California-based startup that builds tech-enabled, hyper-local health programs and peer-to-peer social networks. Through Social Determinants of Life, Inc., AmeriHealth Caritas is now the single largest shareholder in Wider Circle and will have a seat on the company’s board of directors.
Research has demonstrated that robust social networks underpin many of the social determinants, not only contributing to better health but also enhancing resilience and positively altering life trajectories. A January 2021 report by the Brookings Institute found, “Social networks, providing access to support, information, power, and resources, are a critical and often neglected element of opportunity structures. Social capital matters for mobility.” Similarly, as recently stated in Stanford Social Innovation Review, social networks “forge an interrelated and mutually reinforcing cycle that affects a person’s ability to manage or take advantage of his or her challenges and opportunities.”
“Our investment in Wider Circle lays the groundwork for a long-term partnership that will leverage the power of social networks to not only improve health, but also to elevate life outcomes and create mobility out of poverty,” said Tufano. “This is only a first step for what’s to come, but it is an exciting launchpad for the innovative work that will be done through Social Determinants of Life, Inc.”