Issue Briefs | Feb 10, 2020

Leveraging American Community Survey (ACS) Data to Address Social Determinants of Health and Advance Health Equity

State Medicaid programs are increasingly seeking to understand and address social factors that contribute to poor health—such as food insecurity, unstable housing, and a lack of access to social supports—in order to lower costs, improve outcomes for their members, and advance health equity. To inform this work of addressing the social determinants of health (SDOH) and advancing health equity, states and Medicaid officials need data in order to identify priority areas of unmet social and economic needs, execute SDOH initiatives, and monitor and evaluate the impacts of these programs. Increasingly, states are leveraging a broad array of data sources to support efforts to address health equity. While those sources closest to the Medicaid program are the most widely used, each has advantages and disadvantages. This brief focuses on how Medicaid programs can use data from one federal survey, the American Community Survey (ACS), to inform and target interventions that seek to address social determinants of health and advance health equity. This brief also highlights relevant examples from states that use SDOH and health equity measures from the ACS, including which measures and what they are used for.