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The New Social Determinants Caucus

August 5, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
Rep. Cheri Bustos

Two weeks ago, Reps. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.,Tom Cole, R-Okla., G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., and Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., created a new Social Determinants Caucus, which will coordinate federal investments in health and social drivers of health such as food, housing and transportation.

“The reason you start a caucus is to advance a legislative agenda. We already have close to 30 members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, who are part of this caucus,” said Bustos during a conversation hosted by Axios and United Health Group. 

Bustos said her focus on social determinants of health is personal, as there is a zip code in the congressional district where she serves where the only pharmacy and grocery store decided to close their doors, areas where it took seven years to hire primary care physicians, and people who have to take 16 bus stops to get to a doctor’s office. 

Bustos said more than 700 interested parties and 100 supporting organizations throughout the country supported the launch of the caucus on July 21, 2021.

“Our call of action to the 700 on this call was to tell us what we need to know, what are the biggest negative social determinants to a human being’s health in your community? The idea is that we do this call to action, people get back in touch with us, and we use that to write future legislation,” said Bustos. 

At the last session held by the caucus they introduced a social determinants accelerator act, which Busto said calls for $25 million in grants for 25 different communities, and each community would receive $1 million to empower local communities to investigate the social determinants that are getting in the way of people’s health. 

Bustos said that President Joe Biden has put aside money in his own budget of $153 million for initiatives aimed at investigating the social determinants of health. 

“We’re living in a whole new health world because of this pandemic,” said Bustos.

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