A Systematic Review of Interventions on Patients' Social and Economic Needs

Am J Prev Med. 2017 Nov;53(5):719-729. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.05.011. Epub 2017 Jul 5.


Context: Healthcare systems are experimenting increasingly with interventions to address patients' social and economic needs. This systematic review examines how often and how rigorously interventions bridging social and medical care have been evaluated.

Evidence acquisition: The review included literature from PubMed published between January 2000 and February 2017. Additional studies were identified by reference searches and consulting local experts. Included studies were based in the U.S.; addressed at least one social or economic determinant of health (e.g., housing, employment, food insecurity); and were integrated within the medical care delivery system. Data from included studies were abstracted in June 2015 (studies published January 2000-December 2014) and in March 2017 (studies published January 2015-February 2017).

Evidence synthesis: Screening of 4,995 articles identified 67 studies of 37 programs addressing social needs. Interventions targeted a broad range of social needs and populations. Forty studies involved non-experimental designs. There was wide heterogeneity in outcome measures selected. More studies reported findings associated with process (69%) or social or economic determinants of health (48%) outcomes than health (30%) or healthcare utilization or cost (27%) outcomes. Studies reporting health, utilization, or cost outcomes reported mixed results.

Conclusions: Healthcare systems increasingly incorporate programs to address patients' social and economic needs in the context of care. But evaluations of these programs to date focus primarily on process and social outcomes and are often limited by poor study quality. Higher-quality studies that include common health and healthcare utilization outcomes would advance effectiveness research in this rapidly expanding field.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Food Supply
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Social Determinants of Health*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*