To the Editor Dr Garg and colleagues1 provided a challenge to those who believe that screening for social determinants can improve population health. They asserted that unlike conventional clinical screening, “screening for social determinants can detect adverse exposures and conditions that typically require resources well beyond the scope of clinical care. Screening … without the capacity to ensure referral and linkage to appropriate treatment is ineffective and, arguably, unethical.” Because physicians may be powerless to address the social factors that make individuals vulnerable to illness, such screening can backfire by creating “expectations that, if unfulfilled, could lead to frustration in patients and physicians alike.” The authors warned that targeting individuals based on age, education, or minority status may reinforce stereotypes and “stigmatize the screening process.”
Bayer R, Johns DM. Screening for Social Determinants of Health. JAMA. 2016;316(23):2551–2552. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.16922
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