The “Help Desk” model was originally developed in California and Massachusetts to help healthcare systems address their patients’ social needs such as food insecurity and housing instability. In this model, trained student volunteers serve patients by screening them for unmet social needs, providing referrals to community resources, and following up to facilitate connections.

In the spring of 2018, our team met with a variety of stakeholders in the Durham community and the health system to better understand local efforts addressing social determinants of health and to explore opportunities to collaborate. We recognized the the opportunity to engage student volunteers to build capacity to improve health and social care integrated care. We were excited to partner with Lincoln Community Health Center to launch our local Help Desk Program.

Student Volunteer Models for Identify and Respond to Social Needs: 

Gottlieb LM, Hessler D, Long D, et al. Effects of Social Needs Screening and In-Person Service Navigation on Child Health: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatrics. 2016;170(11):e162521. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.2521

Berkowitz SA, Hulberg AC, Standish S, Reznor G, Atlas SJ. Addressing Unmet Basic Resource Needs as Part of Chronic Cardiometabolic Disease Management. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2017;177(2):244. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.7691

Garg A, Marino M, Vikani AR, Solomon BS. Addressing Families’ Unmet Social Needs Within Pediatric Primary Care: The Health Leads Model. Clinical Pediatrics. 2012;51(12):1191-1193. doi:10.1177/0009922812437930

Garg A, Sarkar S, Marino M, Onie R, Solomon BS. Linking urban families to community resources in the context of pediatric primary care. Patient Education and Counseling. 2010;79(2):251-254. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2009.10.011

Onyekere C, Ross S, Namba A, Ross JC, Mann BD. Medical Student Volunteerism Addresses Patients’ Social Needs: A Novel Approach to Patient-Centered Care. Ochsner J. 2016;16(1):45-49.a

Nguyen AL, Mosqueda LA, Angulo M, et al. A clinic-based pilot intervention to enhance diabetes management for elderly Hispanic patients. Published online 2016. doi:10.18455/08001

Losonczy LI, Hsieh D, Wang M, et al. The Highland Health Advocates: a preliminary evaluation of a novel programme addressing the social needs of emergency department patients. Emerg Med J. 2017;34(9):599-605. doi:10.1136/emermed-2015-205662