UnitedHealthcare CEO: Addressing Social Determinants of Health Helps Greater Baltimore

Health care is about more than an annual checkup. In fact, there is growing recognition that social and environmental factors, known as the social determinants of health, play an important role in a person’s well-being, according to Donna Carris, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Maryland.

UnitedHealthcare is working in communities nationwide to address these social determinants, especially in areas where many individuals face health care disparities related, in part, to challenges like poverty and a lack of access to safe, affordable housing. 

As a part of this effort, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Maryland recently partnered with Total Health Care in Baltimore to co-host a clinic for men and their families at Mondawmin Mall.

The clinic provided blood pressure checks, asthma screening, lead testing and confidential HIV testing, among other services.

“This partnership is about bringing the community together to rally around simple clinical interventions,” Donna said. “Each individual’s experience is unique, and this clinic helps us connect people with personalized care.”

Men often have poor health outcomes related to social factors and on average die five years earlier than women, Donna said. One example is homelessness.

According to a report from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, more than 7 out of 10 individuals experiencing homelessness are men.

UnitedHealthcare has invested more than $400 million nationwide to improve access to affordable housing.

“In Baltimore, we’ve been proud to partner with several organizations that offer shelter, food and clothing to people experiencing homelessness, including Deacon Chef and the Community Assistance Network,” she said.

Donna recently joined Baltimore-area health care experts and local officials, including Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore city commissioner of health, for a panel discussion at Morgan State University.

The panelists discussed evidence-based approaches to addressing the disparities in care in Baltimore, including in areas like obesity management and prevention, plus trauma-informed care for at-risk children and adolescents.

“Our focus is on creating better outcomes for some of Maryland’s most high-risk populations through partnerships and innovation,” Donna said. “That work starts with understanding the communities where we live and work. We strive to see things through the eyes of our members.”