By John A. Lahtinen
Health equity, a buzzword for the disparity in health care for Latinos and other minorities, is receiving an increased focus from a state and regional groups with an ultimate eye on health outcomes in Connecticut and beyond.
In an attempt to better understand how these issues affect Connecticut residents, the Commission on Health Equity conducted regional public forums in six regions throughout the state between May and June of this year. The goal was to speak to local residents and practitioners to better understand specific regional health concerns and critical issues that affect Connecticut residents.
- an inability to access healthcare due to lack of insurance and or limited insurance provisions through Medicaid;
- a struggle with accessing specialty care due to limitations with Medicaid, lengthy waiting periods (in some cases several months to see a specialist), and lack of local specialists and or transportation to out of region providers; and,
- complaints of lack a of consistency with medical providers and the lack of language specific and culturally competent providers.
What can Connecticut’s Latino and other minority residents do to improve their own health outcomes? Yvette Bello, executive director at Latino Community Services in Wethersfield, offers some tips.
“The advice I have for Latinos is to make sure that they utilize their trusted Latino-friendly, Latino-focused community-based organizations to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and the changes to how healthcare will be delivered in the future,” Bello said. “Tools like Healthcare.gov can help Latinos find customized health insurance that works for them, understand the new mandates in effect and view a timeline to understand what changes to healthcare will be implemented in the next few years.”
In 2011, members from the six New England states comprising the newly-formed New England Regional Health Equity Council (RHEC) gathered to discuss ways to develop an approach to addressing health inequalities, as well as the factors that influence health outcomes in the region.
The RHEC, the regional arm of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA), celebrated its first anniversary in July.
The council has established priorities for a focused national initiative, including:
- increasing awareness of the significance of health disparities;
- strengthening and broadening leadership for addressing health disparities at all levels;
- improving health and healthcare outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations;
- improving cultural and linguistic competency and the diversity of the health-related workforce; and
- improving data availability and coordination, utilization, and diffusion of research and evaluation outcomes.
According to Dr. Marie Spivey, vice president, health equity, at the Connecticut Hospital Association (CHA) and co-chair of the RHEC, during its first year, the RHEC worked to establish structural supports to foster regional collaboration including leadership, governance and working committees.
“The first year also enabled council members opportunities within the region, as well as with the nine other RHECs across the country to collaborate and explore strategies aimed at improving workforce diversity in health organizations and ways to talk about health reform in terms that are relevant and understandable to the public,” said Spivey.
The CHA, which has worked to address these and other concerns, launched a Diversity Collaborative last fall.
Since that time, CHA has been working with its hospitals to increase diversity on their governance boards and senior management, provide them with training and educational tools to advance more culturally and linguistically proficient care, and help them to broaden their knowledge of diverse minority firms with whom they can contract to support supplier diversity interaction.
“CHA has been working closely with the Hispanic Health Council on a cross cultural diversity and inclusiveness curriculum,” said Spivey. “In conjunction with the Hispanic Health Council, CHA will present a four-part program beginning this fall that establishes the foundation of knowledge, attitudes, and skills people need to interact effectively with patients and clients of diverse backgrounds.”
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