Athletic Trainers' Observations of Social Determinants of Health in the Collegiate Setting: A Card Study

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Journal of Athletic Training


Context: Addressing social determinants of health (SDOH) in all populations improves patient outcomes, leading to better patient-centered care. Despite known influences of SDOH, little is known about the ability of athletic trainers (ATs) to observe SDOH in practice. Objective: To explore ATs' observations of SDOH and describe actions taken at the point of care in collegiate and university settings. Design: Descriptive via an observational card study. Setting: Athletic training facilities. Patients or Other Participants: Collegiate and university ATs (23 participants across 20 institutions). Data Collection and Analysis: The ATs used a modified observation card to document observations of SDOH during patient encounters in the collegiate or university setting. The cards contained instructions for completion and a table with 4 columns: (1) a list of 19 predetermined SDOH, (2) a checkbox for observed SDOH, (3) a checkbox for the perceived negative influence of observed SDOH on patient health, and (4) an open box to write in what actions, if any, were taken to address the observed SDOH. Results: Overall, 424 cards were collected. Of 725 observed SDOH, access to social media (153/725, 21.1%), academic stressors (131/725, 18.1%), and behavioral health issues (71/725, 9.8%) were the most commonly observed. Nearly 39% (281/725) had a perceived negative influence. Of those, academic stressors (49/281, 17.4%), behavioral health issues (46/281, 16.4%), and transportation issues (32/281, 11.4%) were most common. For the 23.0% (166/725) of SDOH acted upon, ATs used counseling and education (73/166), provided additional resources (60/166), referred to others (29/166), or communicated with others (4/166). Conclusions: Because ATs are positioned to accurately assess SDOH, they can promote better patient-centered care and improve patient outcomes. Our results suggest that many SDOH observed by ATs in the collegiate or university setting have a negative influence on patient health. Better support for patients with academic stressors and behavioral health issues is important because of these SDOH.

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