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How CVS Wants to Link Social Care With Health Care: Brainstorm Health

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

One of the big new trends in health care is an emphasis on the "social determinants" of health–that is, the everyday factors which may influence the arbitrary ailments and biological breakdowns our bodies go through.

Pharmacy giant CVS, which has now rolled up insurer Aetna into its business, is getting in on that game. On Wednesday, CVS Health announced that it's launching a new platform meant to address these very social health determinants—including fundamental issues such as nutrition and environmental factors that can make people sick (but which you might not necessarily think of as a reason to go the doctor).

This new platform is one part of a $100 million effort being funded by both CVS Health and Aetna's eponymous foundations called the Building Healthier Communities initiative. For this particular piece of the program, CVS will be collaborating with Unite Us—a "social care coordination platform," the company says.

So what exactly will that effort look like? They'll focus on some of the most vulnerable patient communities, according to CVS, such as those lower-income or disabled Americans who rely on Medicaid in order to better connect them with social services that could, ultimately, improve their overall health. After all, housing security, food security, and access to clean environments are critical to overall wellness.

"Our mission is to connect individuals and families across the United States to the services they need through collaboration with local service providers, shared infrastructure, and an inclusive approach for those in need," said Taylor Justice, Unite Us Co-Founder and President, in a statement. "Working with CVS Health, we will foster a community of care and a local support system to empower community members to make the most of the services available to them."

Karen Lynch, the president of Aetna and executive VP at CVS Health, expounded on the program in an interview with Fortune. She emphasized just how important social determinants are to maintaining one's wellbeing. "About 60% of your life expectancy is driven by these social and environmental factors, things that occur entirely outside of a doctor's office," she says.

The point is: Most of what affects your health occurs far away from the health care industry.

This whole initiative makes sense given both Aetna and CVS executives' previous statements about striving to become the "front door" to health care access in local communities. If that aspiration is to come true, it will likely require intricate, community-based efforts such as this.

Read on for the day's news.

Sy Mukherjee, @the_sy_guy, sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

AliveCor gets a new head honcho. Digital health firm AliveCor has a new CEO—Amazon alum Priya Abani, who led the Devices and Enablement arm of the tech giant. The company, which has a number of personalized heart monitors on the market (including an FDA-cleared, six-lead ECG) has been on a hiring binge. In a statement, the firm also announced that Vinod Khosla has been promoted to AliveCor’s board chairman.

INDICATIONS

Bristol-Myers’ star cancer drug struggles, again. Shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb sank about 3.5% in Wednesday trading after the company reported yet another mixed bag of results for its cancer immunotherapy Opdivo. In a clinical trial for advanced lung cancer, a combination of Opdivo and another key cancer treatment, Yervoy (as well as another study combining Opdivo with chemotherapy), proved disappointing. In the case of Opdivo plus chemotherapy, the combo treatment didn’t extend survival for lung cancer patients when compared with just plain old chemotherapy; it did boost survival for patients when combined with Yervoy. But those findings aren’t going to do much to eat into Merck, and its own flagship immunotherapy Keytruda’s, dominance in this market—particularly in lung cancer. This has been a long-running source of concern for Bristol-Myers.

THE BIG PICTURE

Allergan recalls breast implants over cancer concerns. Botox maker Allergan said on Wednesday that it’s recalling a popular textured breast implant product following potential links to a rare type of cancer (and at the urging of regulators). The products in question are Allergan’s Biocell textured implants, which are reportedly linked with a form of cancer called breast-implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, according to Reuters. (Reuters)

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