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Karin VanZant Discusses Ways to Better Address Unmet Social Needs

Karin VanZant, executive director of Life Services at CareSource, said that social needs are inherently interconnected and by focusing on 1 particular area, the various other factors are bound to be addressed as well.


 
Karin VanZant, executive director of Life Services at CareSource, said that social needs are inherently interconnected and by focusing on 1 particular area, the various other factors are bound to be addressed as well.  

Transcript (slightly modified)

Organizations trying to address unmet social needs may feel overwhelmed when there are 15 different points to consider. How can they make this more manageable?

I think that that’s one of the kind of analysis paralysis places that a lot of organizations get to is, how do we tackle everything at one time? How can we be everything to everybody all the time? And when we figure out that that’s really complicated to do, we take a step back and then we typically don’t react. And I’m using ‘we’ in the big global sense of society.

Instead, I think that if we could tackle just one thing and I’ve seen this in some neighborhood community initiatives, one focusing on education and graduation rates. A different one focusing on early childhood education, another one just focusing on breaking down isolation of low income people and bringing people together across class and race lines.

When we focus on one thing, all of a sudden all of the other 14 things that we aren’t necessarily focused on can come into view and come into alignment where we’re starting to see gains in those areas. And part of that is, Mrs Smith is at the middle of the conversation and she may be the one that has 13 or 14 different things going on in her life that we feel need to be fixed all at the same time. And we’re never really going to fix anyone. Our own lives are broken. We’re all kind of a mess, right. But if we can help coordinate and we can encourage and we can be cheerleaders for each other and then wrap around the services that are there both from a health perspective, a behavioral health mental health services as well as economic supports and we break isolation, amazing things can happen.

In Ohio right now, there’s a lot of attention on infant mortality. And so great, if that’ what we want to focus on is infant mortality, let’s dive in. Let’s dive in with those moms. Let’s dive in with the extended families. Let’s try and get the dad’s reengaged during the pregnancy and after the pregnancy and we’ll probably tackle some things like food access, like housing. We’ll probably tackle things like domestic violence, healthy communication, parenting skills. All of those things are going to have to be a part of that equation if we really want to see children be viable past the age of 1.

It’s just going to have an infant mortality label on it right now because that’s definitely a measurable, quantifiable need that we have but we’re going to see all these other things come up as we work with that mom and as we work with that extended family. 

 
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