4 things we can do to end healthcare disparities
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Just miles from where one of only two Level 1 trauma centers in Atlanta is scheduled to close at the end of October, dozens of medical professionals, CEOs, COOs, hospital and healthcare system presidents, and the media gathered for the 2022 Black Directors Health Equity Agenda (BDHEA) summit.

The summit goal: to ensure healthcare leaders remain aware of societal healthcare inequities while working in the ivory towers of America’s healthcare industry. The summit highlighted four things critical for healthcare professionals and the general public to do in order to lessen and ultimately eliminate the current existing healthcare disparities.

Own Our Responsibility

“We’re here because our communities deserve better,” said Atrium Health President & CEO Eugene A. Woods. “It’s really up to us and our colleagues in this room to own up to that.”

Participants made the link between participation in the upcoming midterm elections in states across the nation and actions they and everyday citizens can take.

“My strong belief is that governance can be a compelling force for good,” said Woods, alluding to the importance of voting and actions beyond casting ballots. “We are here because we all have aspirations to leave our communities better than when we found them.”

Ask the Right Questions

Dr. Derek J. Robinson, VP & Chief Medical Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Illinois and the BDHEA program chair, said a big step toward improving the health of the Black community is asking questions.

The questions, “How is the care being provided for men and women?, How is it being provided for individuals who maybe don’t speak English as their first language?,” said Robinson are important to providing care. “If you don’t know the questions to ask, then you likely will not give visibility into the challenges that are being encountered by patients.”

BDHEA founder John W. Daniels, Jr. asked summit attendees questions of his own, which really sounded more like calls to action: “How can we collaborate and deliberately take action in the health equity space?” and “What are we going to do to advance the efforts going forward?”

Increase Black Healthcare Professionals

Blacks make up only 5.3% of medical professionals, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. That means the odds of a Black family or individual having a Black primary physician are low. “We know that because we have under-representation in the healthcare workforce of African Americans and in Hispanic and American Indians, that makes the healthcare provider workforce a little bit less relatable to those patient populations,” Robinson said.

Robinson said teaching hospitals must ask themselves how are they as a whole, and their individual specialty divisions doing with recruitment of underrepresented minority medical students and residents.

Blacks made up just over 11% of first-year medical school students in 2021, according to American Medical Association data. That number is up from 9.5% in 2020. The number of Black male first-year students nationwide increased by more than 20% during the same time period.

“We know there’s plenty of research and data that not only suggests but really informs us that there are differences in how care is delivered to patients,” said Robinson.

Confront, Remove Roadblocks

Some of the underlying factors that lead to disparities in care are a lack of education in medical care, transportation, income disparity, and food insecurity, which can lead to diabetes, among other chronic health conditions common among Blacks.

Awareness can lead to better diagnosis of diseases. Having leaders of color in the healthcare profession aware of how patients are being cared for at the ground level, can begin to lower healthcare disparities nationally.

[Source: The Atlanta Voice]