How do social factors affect health? Community Influencers to offer clues

Grand Haven-based Momentum Center ’s Barbara Lee VanHorssen is one of 50 “community influencers” tapped by the state to help drive its new social determinants of health initiative. 

The goal of the Social Determinant of Health Community Influencer Program is to address social factors that shape health outcomes for Michigan residents. It will bring together a diverse group of community members to inform the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services strategy, as well as policy and program recommendations when it comes to social determinants of health.

Social determinants of health

Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people live, work, and play that can impact their wellbeing, VanHorssen says, and something the Momentum Center has been talking about since its inception.

VanHorssen is the founder and “experi-mentor” of the Momentum Center, which has locations in Grand Haven and Holland. The Momentum Center provides opportunities to form collaborative relationships and offers programs and events that nurture, educate and inspire individuals to address issues of social justice and human rights.

“I’m looking forward to helping give people who don’t typically have a voice a voice,” VanHorssen says. “It’s kind of like an advisory board who can actually talk to the people who need services.”
VanHorssen and other Community Influencer Program members will provide insights and feedback on barriers that negatively affect a community’s health, such as food insecurity, the lack of affordable housing, and the inequity of medical care. The program includes about 50 people from various sectors and from across Michigan.

Grass roots

Each member of the group is seen as someone who has influence in their communities.
“By actively involving these engaged community members, MDHHS will improve awareness and access to resources that support social determinants of health, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for all Michigan residents,” says Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director.
Every month, the influencers will attend a meeting or focus group, complete two surveys, and share information about social determinants of health on their social media channels.
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Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.