3.5 million social needs requests during COVID-19: What can we learn from 2-1-1?

Health Affairs Blog

Miles-long lines of cars waiting for boxes of food. Empty shelves where toilet paper should be. “Closed” notices taped to storefront windows. These images of the social and economic fallout of COVID-19 are powerful. Yet, actual surveillance data documenting the pandemic’s social impact are in shorter supply. With a few exceptions such as unemployment claims, most social needs are not systematically tracked by governments, let alone in real time.

We’ve been monitoring daily calls and requests to 2-1-1 helplines across the US since the pandemic began and offer four observations based on more than 3.5 million requests to 2-1-1s during COVID-19: the impact was immediate and dramatic; needs are changing over time; vary by population and place; and policies influence needs. Implications of these findings for community action, policy evaluation, and ongoing surveillance are discussed.

Kreuter MW, Garg R, Javad I, et al. 3.5 Million Social Needs Requests During COVID-19: What Can We Learn From 2-1-1? Health Affairs Blog; August 4, 2020. Available online.

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