LOS ANGELES, CA / ACCESSWIRE / September 22, 2020 / The COVID-19 pandemic has shed a brighter light on a long-standing health care issue: disparities of care and coverage in underserved communities. These communities, populated primarily by low-income people of color, tend to receive fewer health care services, encounter barriers when trying to access health care, and face difficulty in finding health care providers.
Although social determinants are the major cause of these inequities, it is incumbent on health care organizations to do their part to address these issues. The following are three ways that Dr. Cynthia Telles, Community Health Committee chair for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Boards of Directors, believes the health care industry can take action to identify and address disparities.
Champion Diversity in Leadership
The United States currently lacks diversity in medical leadership and among health care professionals generally. Having diverse leadership can help ensure different perspectives are brought into consideration from both a personal and societal viewpoint. Without greater diversity at the top levels of health care organization, unconscious biases can grow larger, which may lead to policies that lack awareness of the needs and barriers experienced by underserved communities.
"Through my work as the founding director of the UCLA Hispanic Neuropsychiatric Center of Excellence, I am keenly aware of the importance of providing culturally-informed health care that addresses the language and resource barriers encountered by patients with diverse backgrounds," explained Cynthia Telles. "By developing a more diverse leadership and management team with qualified individuals of differing ethnicities, genders, orientations, and abilities, health care systems can more easily identify and work to eliminate disparities and improve patient care and health outcomes."
Implement Implicit Bias Training
In addition to diversity at the leadership level, comprehensive implicit bias training can be essential for all health care staff. Such programs help us all see our unconscious attitudes and beliefs - which even people with the best intentions have - and help avoid unintended discrimination that leads to racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and other inequalities. For example, there have been numerous reports related to pregnant Black mothers whose health concerns were not listened to, leading to poor outcomes for them and their newborns.
"Ensuring that all medical professionals have undergone thorough bias training helps all of us to identify and then better eliminate unconscious biases that so often lead to inadequate care for people of color and underserved communities," said Dr. Cynthia Telles.
Enable Health Care Access
Lastly and most important, ensuring that every person has access to affordable, high-quality health care is essential to improving healthcare disparities. To support this goal, earlier this year Kaiser Permanente donated $40 million in grants to community-based organizations to help ensure access to health care for uninsured people and under-resourced communities. The grants supported a diverse group of organizations and empowered them to better provide access to donated health care and to free or low-cost medications.
"Large organizations and health care providers have a responsibility to improve the accessibility to quality care for everyone, regardless of their backgrounds or socioeconomic status," said Dr. Cynthia Telles. "I am proud of the work Kaiser Permanente has done in this space and am committed to continuing to champion the availability of quality care for underserved populations."
For more information, reach out to Andrew Mitchell at Cambridge Global at 404-955-7133.
SOURCE: Cynthia Telles