While healthcare is generally defined as the organized provision of medical care to individuals or a community, it involves much more than just the basic materials one may find within a healthcare facility. To deliver adequate care, one must be able to deal with challenges ranging from cultural competency, and racial, gender, and ethnic disparities.
Based upon this, my classmates and I concluded our own definition of health; Health is determined by one’s physical and mental well-being which is directly impacted by personal choice and various social determinants (socioeconomic status, access to resources, racial disparities, etc.) tailored to an individual’s need. Cultural competency, and racial, gender, and ethnic disparities are all examples of social determinants of health that contribute to the access, or lack thereof, to healthcare.
Caring for Diverse Patients
A community, and the providers within it, should be able to provide the necessary resources to aid various types of people and their needs. Whether patients speak a different language, are disabled, or identify themselves in a way in which the provider is unfamiliar with, the patient should still have access to medical care.
Throughout Schenectady, there are a variety of services that can assist in a variety of ways. In most medical facilities, translators are available for those unable to communicate with their provider, as well as remote translation services for the rest. For example, in 2016, the Whitney Young Health Center saw patients who spoke a total of 44 languages and attended to them with a team of staff that spoke 12 languages, using the center’s remote translation service for the rest.
Additionally, there is a range of services in Schenectady available to those who are disabled. These facilities aid those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, autism, and many more. These programs focus on teaching individuals how to accomplish tasks on their own and prepare them for the future ahead of them.
Both of these services go beyond just the medical aspect of care; by providing custom care tailored to each individual, medical providers demonstrate that they are acknowledging their patients and recognizing the differences among them, which in turn creates a strong bond between them.
However, caring for diverse patients not only relates to the health condition of patients, but it can also relate to a variety of social determinants about a patient.
Racial Disparities Emerge as COVID-19 Cases Increase
Unfortunately, as health providers are fighting with the current COVID-19 pandemic, certain communities are being left behind in the midst, however, how does this happen? And what can a community do to solve this?
Within just the third week of testing, minority communities were already being treated differently by Schenectady county compared to other communities who have better access to resources; these disparities are not only being dismissed by local officials, but members of the minority community feel as though the city as well as the county are being slow at providing them with information and materials in this much needed time. Although African Americans make up 12.4% of the population, back in May 2020, they represented 28.6% of new positive cases discoverable at mobile test sites, but why was this happening?
With the known history of African Americans being predisposed to diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease (all factors that increase their vulnerability to the virus), local Schenectady officials still failed to set up direct outreach sites. However, this treatment of under-resourced communities is not new; well-established disparities throughout inner-city communities have reduced access to not only healthcare services but also to insurance and preventative screenings as well.
Sadly, this is not just the case in Schenectady; when comparing populations throughout Albany, a similar pattern is found. While the county’s African American population is 11.4%, they occupy 28% of ICU patients, 23% of those hospitalized, and 20% of fatalities.
As a result of living in under-resourced communities, African Americans consequently face increased barriers to not only testing but to critical care as well.
how is Schenectady solving these disparities?
After being criticized for the lack of resources provided to the minority communities throughout Schenectady, county manager Rory Fluman vowed to improve his efforts.
In a late response to serve these in-need communities, healthcare providers conducted three weeks of community testing at inner-city Schenectady neighborhoods (such as Hamilton Hill and Mont Pleasant), which were easy places to access for the residents.
When serving diverse populations, the healthcare aspect travels far beyond a language barrier. By understanding a patient through their culture, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic realities, healthcare providers can provide the best possible care to their patients.
“> Schenectady County.” Developmental Disability Services | Schenectady County, www.schenectadycounty.com/node/283 .
Cskopecce. “The Importance of Diversity in Health Care: Medical Professionals Weigh In.” The Importance of Diversity in Health Care : Medical Blog | St. George’s University, 17 Dec. 2018, www.sgu.edu/blog/medical/pros-discuss-the-importance-of-diversity-in-health-care/.
DeMola, Pete, and Marc Schultz. “Racial Disparities Emerge in Schenectady County COVID-19 Cases; County Must Do More with Info, Groups Say.” The Daily Gazette, https://dailygazette.com/2020/05/13/racial-disparities-emerge-in-schenectady-county-covid-19-cases-county-must-do-more-with-info-groups-say/
DeMola, Pete, and Marc Schultz. “Schenectady County Manager Pledges to Step up https://dailygazette.com/2020/05/21/schenectady-county-manager-pledges-to-step-up-communication-efforts-with-minorities-over-covid-19/
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Lucas, Dave. “Mobile Testing Continues At Mont Pleasant Middle School In Schenectady.” WAMC,www.wamc.org/post/mobile-testing-continues-mont-pleasant-middle-school-schenectady.