By Dr. Debra Andree, President & CEO at Community Health Centers, Inc.
While diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has always been an important initiative for all companies, I believe it is exceptionally important within our healthcare industry. Community Health Centers’ (CHC) mission to provide quality and compassionate primary healthcare to Central Florida’s diverse communities further reflects our commitment to DEI.
Since our founding in 1972, our culture has been focused on DEI – for our patients, our communities and our caregivers. Throughout our daily work, patients and their families put their trust in our hands. And, by doing so they deserve to always be treated with the utmost respect and compassion.
We firmly believe that our diversity is our strength. A key part of our Community Health Centers (CHC) mission is to care for at-risk neighborhoods and populations. This responsibility is a passion for our patient care providers and team members and it is something we take very seriously.
I also believe that the diversity of our caregivers allows for better care of our diverse patients. Since healthcare is ultimately built upon relationships, it is important that all our patients trust us to understand and meet their unique needs.
We also strive to continually look for new ways to identify health disparities within our communities and find ways to address these ongoing challenges. These health disparities may include birth outcomes, or our patients not filling their required prescriptions, or missing their necessary follow-up appointments due to a lack of transportation.
Through open, honest and two-way communication with our patients, we encourage them to be heard. Doing so creates an environment of safety, belonging and positive health outcomes. Many organizations view diversity initiatives as wise business practices. Here at CHC, we view these efforts as the right thing to do. Often, a certified interpreter service is utilized when there is a language barrier. This assists to improve communication and enhance understanding.
Our leadership teams have made our DEI work an ongoing focus for our health centers. We are fortunate to have dedicated and active board members that provide guidance in setting goals and standards for the upcoming year. We also work closely with our many community partners, who encourage us to each look at ourselves and make choices that inspire good health for all.
This ongoing work is not easy and we understand that it is often never ending. But, we remain committed to developing and cultivating a culture of compassion and acceptance. By doing so, we have the opportunity to continue to create a very unique and welcoming environment for all that we serve. CHC team members express joy knowing their roles are purpose filled, mission driven and their work matters. CHC patients express gratitude for the quality care they receive that leads to improved quality of life.
By Ebony Davis-Martin, Community Health Worker at Community Health Centers, Inc.
The Advancing Precision Medicine (APM) Initiative considers individuality in population health. The goal is to facilitate more accurate treatment and prevention strategies for illness and disease.
Precision Medicine is new terminology in the field of medicine; however, the concept is not new in practice. Individual considerations for treatment and prevention is not new in the medical profession. In the way that blood transfusions are dependent on common or universal blood type and eyeglass prescriptions vary based on individuality, so is the hope for all treatment and preventive approaches in medicine. Precision Medicine is the future of healthcare.
Oftentimes, and historically, medical research has not been representative of our diverse nation. We are rich in diversity and it is important to ensure inclusion of all populations. Everyone is different. The treatment of an illness, condition, or disease for one person may have adverse effects for someone else with the same diagnosis; even among family members.
Community Health Centers, Inc. (CHC) worked with the All of Us Research Program (AoURP) for the past two years. During a 14-month period of engagement to promote the program, CHC reached nearly 20,000 individuals through face-to-face interactions, brochure distribution, and in-person web-enabling at our Adult Family and Adult Dental locations; which included our Spanish and Creole speaking families. Although COVID-19 precautions brought face-to-face engagements to a halt; many patients were still web-enabled through telephone outreach. There were 46 health centers across the nation chosen to promote and/or enroll potential participants in the AoURP. CHC’s engagement efforts reached approximately 1 ½ times more potential participants.
The mission of Community Health Centers is to provide quality and compassionate primary healthcare to Central Florida’s diverse communities, which aligns with the inclusivity of diversity in medical research. Many of our patients are faced with barriers, known as Social Determinants of Health, which can have a negative impact on health outcomes. Health insurance, income, transportation, housing, education, health literacy, digital literacy, and other variables affect patients’ ability to obtain medical care, to afford vital medications and medical equipment, and to understand the nature of their condition as well as the importance of prevention. Because these factors exist, our patients aren’t always able to receive the healthcare that they need. If a more precise approach in medical treatment and prevention exists, disparities and inequity in healthcare for diverse populations would be lessened; and perhaps, one day wholly eliminated.
Including diverse communities in large scale research, such as the National Institute of Health’s AoURP, is one way to advance our nation, for everyone to receive quality and compassionate healthcare treatment and prevention. Medical research has not always considered diversity. Historic misrepresentation in medical research has also created a trust barrier, particularly in African American and Spanish speaking communities. As a result, researchers have faced many challenges. As Social Determinants of Health are considered and addressed in ways which facilitate trust and reaching a common goal, healthcare equity can increase and communities can receive more effective treatment and prevention to obtain positive health outcomes and ideally, optimal health for everyone.
As of August 31, 2020, CHC’s participation in promoting the All of Us Research Program has concluded, however, potential participants can still enroll by visiting www.joinallofus.org.