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Inventing Social Emergency Medicine

Extensive New Report Examines Social Issues Impacting America’s Emergency Departments, Establishes Framework for New Field Within Clinical and Academic Emergency Medicine

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Poverty, homelessness, mental illness, substance use disorders, violence, and other patient social factors are increasingly impacting America’s emergency departments–demanding action and a much-needed “safety net” for patients seeking accessible care. A new journal supplement, “Inventing Social Emergency Medicine,” published this month in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, a premier scientific journal, explores the important role emergency departments play in effectively addressing health-related social needs and provides the framework for an emerging field within emergency medicine.

The “Inventing Social Emergency Medicine” journal report was developed as the result of a groundbreaking consensus conference by the same name, organized through a unique partnership by the Emergency Medical Foundation (EMF), the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Andrew Levitt Center for Social Emergency Medicine. Funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, the September 2017 conference was designed to unify the intellectual superstructure of previously disparate activities in social emergency medicine. The conference included presentations and commentaries by a group of 50 leading emergency physician researchers and clinicians who share a common interest in emergency medicine and social determinants of health. The conference proceedings were compiled into the journal supplement, creating a roadmap to understanding this rapidly emerging field within clinical and academic emergency medicine. The conference and resulting report addressed these key topics:

  • Principles of Social Emergency Medicine;
  • Screening For and Addressing Social Determinants of Health;
  • Homelessness and the Practice of Emergency Medicine: Challenges, Gaps in Care and Moral Obligations;
  • A Paradigm Shift to Interrupt the Bi-Directional Flow Driving Community Violence; and
  • Emergency Physicians as Community Health Advocates.

“By the nature of our work–by repeatedly caring for the victims of violence and poverty and other social ills—emergency medicine providers have developed the cultural competence and expertise to care for the most vulnerable among us,” explains Harrison J. Alter, MS, MD, an emergency physician and researcher at Highland Hospital, Oakland, California, and founding executive director of the Andrew Levitt Center for Social Emergency Medicine. “Social determinants of health are the fundamental driver of health outcomes–and we in the emergency medicine ‘safety-net’ have both an obligation and an opportunity to improve the health of our communities by embracing Social Emergency Medicine.”

Underscoring its leadership and support for the emerging field, ACEP established a dedicated Social Emergency Medicine Section at the conclusion of the 2017 consensus conference.

For more information on the Inventing Social Emergency Medicine conference and journal supplement, please visit:

The Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) was founded in 1972 by visionary leaders of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). As a non-profit research entity, EMF funds education and research that improves emergency patient care and provides the basis for effective health policy.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 40,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million people they treat on an annual basis.

The Levitt Center for Social Emergency Medicine is an independent nonprofit research and advocacy institute dedicated to transforming emergency medicine to better incorporate social context into daily practice. Our work in Social Emergency Medicine (SEM) explores how social, economic, and other factors affect the health of our patients and their communities. The Levitt Center provides resources and support for research and advocacy in SEM as well as population health initiatives that recognize sensible use of the emergency care system.

Media Contacts

Steve Arnoff
American College of Emergency Physicians 
Direct: 202-370-9290 |

Tresa Hardt
The Lovell Group
Cell: 214-395-1918 |

Annals of Emergency Medicine is one of the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Annals of Emergency Medicine is the largest and most frequently cited circulation peer-reviewed journal in emergency medicine and publishes original research, clinical reports, opinion, and educational information related to the practice, teaching, and research of emergency medicine.

For further information: Steve Arnoff | | Twitter: @EmergencyDocs

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