Welcome to the Andrew Levitt Center for Social Emergency Medicine, an independent nonprofit research and advocacy institute operated by emergency physicians, social scientists and concerned citizens.
Our work at the Levitt Center explores the interplay of the emergency care system and social forces such as food insecurity, unstable housing, community and interpersonal violence and human exploitation, as together they influence the health of our communities.
Though emergency physicians are trained to have the expertise and technology to handle complex critical illness, an estimated one-third of Emergency Department (ED) visits are for more fundamental health needs. Though EDs in many areas of the nation are already so crowded that they must regularly divert patients to other facilities, the number of EDs nationally declines every year. And although EDs are designed to handle a surge of victims following a catastrophe, patients often view them primarily as a gateway to basic healthcare. These contradictions, along with other issues ranging from difficulty securing on-call specialists, the challenge of frequent ED use, racial disparities in pain management and the scourge of hunger, have motivated us to search for solutions in the discipline of emergency medicine and among ED stakeholders.
Past research has suggested that these issues arise from problems such as the implementation of managed care or the rising number of uninsured patients. We believe, however, that these contradictions may stem from and reflect emergency medicine’s unusual position on the frontier of the medical care system. In order to understand and address such paradoxes, ED researchers must expand their perspective on the nature of emergency care by recognizing the important social role of the ED in the U.S. healthcare system and society, beyond its traditional medical mandate, as well as the importance of social factors both in our daily work with patients and in the health of the communities we serve.
At the Levitt Center, we offer the notion of Social Emergency Medicine (SEM, for more information click here) as a framework for this expanded perspective. Through research and advocacy, our goal is to expand the practice of emergency medicine to include social context in every encounter and to reach into all corners of our community to reduce the burden of acute illness.