If you’ve been following the news, especially in the world of health care, then you probably know about the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy’s, recently released advisory entitled Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The US Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community. Inside, the Surgeon General shares his concerns for what he describes as one of the biggest health risks of our time, and then shares what he believes to be the solution: human connection.
While we’re sad about the pervasive loneliness and social isolation that Americans are experiencing, we’re so grateful here at Papa that the epidemic is finally getting the attention it deserves on a national scale. Of course we believe deeply and wholeheartedly that people need to be healthy, so it’s encouraging to see the country taking practical steps to support this vision as well.
From the Desk of the US Surgeon General
Dr. Murthy’s report starts by outlining what he calls the “epidemic of loneliness” in America. Inside, among other things, he:
- Defines social connection
- Explains why social connection matters
- Explores trends in social connection
- Discusses causes of social disconnection
- Describes how social connection impacts individuals and communities
- Presents a national strategy for advancing social connection
The report is 68 pages long and is a lot to read, but it’s enlightening, fascinating, and, in the end, very reassuring. At Papa, we feel a sense of renewed hope in not only having our core mission and values affirmed by the US Surgeon General, but seeing the rest of the nation get on board with our goal of achieving health and wellness through companion care and connection as well.
Social disconnection is far more common than many people realize. The Surgeon General himself was unaware of the extensive nature of it until he embarked on a cross-country listening tour where people began to tell him that they felt “isolated, invisible, and insignificant.” Now that he knows, he’s working hard to raise awareness of the epidemic—just like he has done in the past for tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis.
Papa also works hard to raise awareness—we recognize that people can’t fix what they don’t know about—so we are so glad that the Surgeon General and his team are spreading the word and sounding the alarm about the health risks that come with loneliness and social isolation.
Papa is an essential part of the health care ecosystem
When CEO Andrew Parker founded Papa in 2017, he and his team set out to create a new kind of care, built on human connection. For the past six years, Papa has worked tirelessly to alleviate the effects of loneliness, isolation, and other unmet social needs threatening millions of Americans every day.
Papa Pals have conducted more than 1.6 million visits to date. Imagine the ripple effect this is having around the country. Papa is truly an invaluable part of the in-home services ecosystem that allows our members to live holistically healthy lives on their own terms.
The last section of the Advisory is a National Strategy listing practical steps stakeholders can take to increase and strengthen social connection across the nation. Stakeholders include: local governments, health care providers, researchers, schools, workplaces, technology companies, media industries, parents, caregivers, and individuals.
The Surgeon General makes it very clear that it will take all of us working together to “mend the social fabric of our nation.” Here at Papa, we want to be part of this team—which is why we have partnered with myriad communities, caregivers, health care providers, and health care plans to start working toward this goal.
We want to bring people together in mutually beneficial ways—and we’re poised and ready to help lead the nation to follow suit.
Papa Pals are building a culture of connection, one visit at a time
The Surgeon General strongly believes that “a culture of connection is vital to creating the changes needed in society.” He says that formal programs and policies can have a great impact, but that we shouldn’t discount the informal practices of everyday life—individuals engaging each other in kind and helpful ways.
“Such a culture of connection rests on core values of kindness, respect, service, and commitment to one another,” he says. “Everyone contributes to the collective culture of social connection by regularly practicing these values.”
The list of things he says individuals can do to advance social connection reads like a Papa Pal’s Playbook. The list includes:
- Investing time in nurturing relationships through consistent, frequent, and high-quality engagement with others.
- Seeking out opportunities to serve and support others.
- Actively engaging with people of different backgrounds and experiences to expand your understanding of and relationships with others.
- Reflect the core values of connection in how you approach others in conversation and through the actions you take.
In the Surgeon General’s opening letter prefacing his Advisory, he writes:
“Loneliness and isolation represent profound threats to our health and well-being. But we have the power to respond. By taking small steps every day to strengthen our relationships, and by supporting community efforts to rebuild social connection, we can rise to meet this moment together. We can build lives and communities that are healthier and happier.”
At Papa we are committed to taking these small—and big—steps each and every day as we rise to meet this crucial moment in history. We are committed to building a culture of connection—and we’re already well on our way.
Read more in our series on the Surgeon General’s Report
This article is part of a series of articles, each looking into part of Dr. Vivek H. Murthy's report. The other articles are:
Digital Health Literacy: The Next Big SDoH
Improving digital health literacy and achieving telehealth equity is critical in order to increase access to care, improve health outcomes, and reduce health disparities.
8 Practical Ways We Can Cultivate a Community of Connection
In part three of our series on the Surgeon General’s report, we explore strategies for creating a culture of connection.