Outreach can encourage more people to utilize free preventative care.
Preventative care—including recommended screenings, vaccines, and annual checkups—is one of the best ways to manage your health. They can help reduce your risk of serious illnesses, and to catch any diseases early, while they are easier to treat.
To level the playing field for people regardless of income level, many screenings and vaccines are offered for free. These offerings have helped millions of Americans over the years—but not everyone is taking advantage of them. Why?
There are many reasons—and there are other barriers to health care besides money—but some of it comes down to trust, according to Sanjai Sinha, MD, internist at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Many studies have found that Black and Hispanic patients are more likely to trust doctors who look like them. Here’s the problem: As of 2019, 56.2 percent of physicians are White, according to the Association of American Medical College. By comparison, only 5 percent of physicians are Black or African American, and 5.8 percent are Hispanic.
In addition to improving the racial diversity of doctors and nurses, healthcare facilities are also using community outreach. This can help healthcare facilities to connect with people who are not utilizing health programs.
“For instance, if I have several patients who all live in a community who don’t get any vaccines, but they all go to a certain church, or they go to a certain social setting where there are people, [they can help] to better understand what do these patients think about vaccines,” says Dr. Sinha. “What are their barriers? Can we get through those barriers? What is it about their values or preferences?”
Outreach can be conversations in those churches or social settings, but it can also include mobile units (to provide free screenings, tests, or checkups), educational resources, or providing free transportation to medical services. (Here are more ways health care is connecting with vulnerable populations.)
Dr. Sinha says it’s essential for physicians to be open-minded and listen to their patient’s concerns, and not just focus on being “right” or the authority figure. “It’s our job to try to find the answers in that community to work with,” he says.
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Racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to get screenings,
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including vaccines, and a lot of these are free,
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so theoretically, even if you don't have insurance,
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you would be able to access them,
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or if you have basic insurance, they're covered
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under the law.
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What can be done to encourage more populations
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to get the life-saving screenings that are available to them?
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So, I think there's a lot of controversy around vaccines
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when there shouldn't be, across all populations in this country.
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It's quite frightening.
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Going back to how patients receive information
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and who they trust is a key place that we need to intervene on.
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So for instance, if I have several patients who all live
in a community
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who don't want to get any vaccines,
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but they all go to a certain church,
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or they go to a certain social setting
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where there are people who they trust, who actually do believe
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An influencer. (laughs)
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So that's the kind of person,
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again, this is us going out to the community.
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This is us reaching out to the patients writ large in an area
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where, perhaps, they never had that kind of outreach,
that kind of penetration,
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and using the influencers, that's a great term there
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because that's what they are,
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be it community health workers, which we've been using
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at Cornell to better understand what do these patients
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think about vaccines, think about colonoscopies,
think about mammograms?
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What are their barriers?
Can we get through those barriers?
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What is it about their values or preferences?
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Some people think that, well if I get this test,
I'm going to actually get the cancer.
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Right because it's got radiation.
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Right, exactly, even if it's got a minimal amount of radiation.
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Or if I get this vaccine, you know, again,
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this cuts across all sociodemographic strata.
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There's a lot of fear about vaccines.
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But whether or not there's a particular cluster of fear
in a community,
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it's our job to try and find those influencers in that community
to work with
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and meet them halfway.
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You know, to be flexible about your own bias,
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and say, alright, even though I think I know the best
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and I know that this is right, and that all of your thoughts
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about this don't make any sense, I still need to know
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where you're coming from, otherwise I'm not gonna
make any headway.
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