Land of the sick

When people are diagnosed with an acute disease, they enter a new world, one with unwritten rules they do not understand. At the same time as they are trying to heal, they suffer physical and psychological harm because of their inability to navigate the hidden social conflicts of being a patient.

GreenHouse took on this issue through a year-long study of a disease where these conflicts are particularly severe: ovarian cancer. Working with the Susan Poorman Blackie Foundation, we determined that ovarian cancer patients face eight fundamental social conflicts, including everything from learning and decision-making styles to how to handle their changing roles in their families.

Finally, at a symposium with patient advocates and other health care leaders, we envisioned a way to foreground the conflicts patients will experience, designing a new model to give them the social support they will need from day one.

GreenHouse was enlisted in this project by Buck Dodson, SPB’s president and executive director. The effort is part of our portfolio of work furthering the translation of social determinants of health into improvements in the health care system. Our portfolio also includes our publication Health Plus Social and the graduate nursing program at the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.