Addressing Social Determinants of Health in the Age of COVID-19

PI: Alexandra J. Zachwieja, PhD

Overview: The impact of COVID-19 is disproportionately high in underserved communities. Currently, the Navajo Nation has the third highest coronavirus infection rate in the United States(1) following a history of reduced federal funding on native health care(2) and longstanding trends of housing, transportation, and resource insecurity that affect health outcomes(3). Evidence of social determinants of health impacting communities across the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic is prominent; minorities are more often “essential workers”(4), and economic insecurity preventing “work from home” correlates with increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases in neighborhoods primarily composed of people of color(5).

The Duluth Campus of the Medical School will institute an integrated, online Social Determinants of Health course that can be utilized by both health professions students and providers, and offers CME credits upon successful completion. COVID-19 will be used as a case-study to model how providers can address structural inequalities key to treating patients from traditionally underserved communities. Throughout this course, providers will develop strategies to combat implicit biases that may disproportionately harm rural communities and persons of color. Using asynchronous training models, participants will engage in self-reflection exercises, confidential discussions (to create a psychologically safe space), and peer instruction activities. Course completion depends on demonstrating competencies for each module. While social issues are particularly relevant in the wake of COVID-19, this course provides a platform for training medical professionals that is widely transferable, and for which the concepts have no expiration date.

Budget: $10,000

This project is supported by the UMN COVID-19 Medical Education Innovation Grants, which support full-time faculty (educators, investigators or clinical) or P&A educators at the University of Minnesota Medical School to develop education (basic science or clinical) and simulation projects related to COVID-19, more general pandemic-related knowledge and skills, or professional development activities that would be possible during this time of shelter at home.