Health and social care is a wide ranging field of practice, encompassing micro-work for individual and small groups at risk and macro-work that focuses on working with communities. It involves a range of activities from distribution of essential hygiene products (tissues, cotton pads, shaving cream and razors) to tackling poverty, homelessness and social exclusion. It is also about giving support and guidance to individuals with a variety of issues such as mental health, addictions, domestic violence and depression.
Integrated health and social care is becoming increasingly important as governments look to reduce the burden on their healthcare systems. It helps to ensure patients get the right help at the right time, avoids unnecessary hospital admissions and supports people to return to their homes as soon as possible. It is a smarter approach to care, leads to more sustainable and cost effective services, and ultimately fosters healthier populations.
It is a complex undertaking and requires cooperation between the two sectors to be successful. Many countries have already been exploring ways to integrate their systems, from screening patients for social risks and referring them to community services, to setting up joint management structures with a focus on common objectives and aligned funding across the sector.
For example, in Sweden the Norrtalje model brought together local governance structures of both healthcare and social care to create a new joint governing body. The US should consider these and other international models as it looks to advance its own efforts in this area. health and social care